Monday, 11 March 2013

Finding Crossbones Graveyard

I first heard about Crossbones while talking to somebody at Southwark Cathedral, but got my lines crossed and ended up at  St Mary Magdalen in Bermondsey instead.   This time around my information was provided by a helpful attendant at The Clink Prison Museum.  He gave me a handy map and off I went. The site wasn't too far away either and I would have missed it had I not known where to look.

The area is mostly fenced closed except for a single gate that is adorned by tributes from locals. A plaque confirmed that I was at the right place.

The history of Crossbones is one of those complex histories that probably is best left to those who know more about it that I do. But as far as graveyards and cemeteries go, it is an old one, and a very full one too. With estimates of up to 15000 people buried there. 

Described as a "non-place" it was inevitable that somebody would decide to erect some glitzy chrome and glass monolith there, however, as is the case with most cemeteries, there are things you can do, and things you can't. And excavations at Crossbones were conducted in the 1990's. Local opposition also prevented any development and Crossbones was able to sustain its tenuous existence.

The site is really an overgrown plot of land, with no headstones or visible signs that it is a graveyard, however there is a sense of aura about it. I was drawn to the site and part of me wanted to scale that fence and just absorb what there was. I haven't felt that strange feeling in years, and that's probably why I am writing this at the moment.

My internet reading did provide an video that satisfied some of my curiosity though. The People of Crossbones Graveyard just made me more curious to see and experience this place.

The conditions that the people lived under all those years ago are not really the sort of thing we can imagine so many years down the line. The question I have is: what was the extent of this graveyard? it seems to be very small for 15000 burials, even given the haphazardness of these burials all those years ago. How much documentation is there about it? and just who were they?

Crossbones may be found on Google Earth at  51.503973°  -0.093477°. I had hoped to return again when there was sunshine and take more photographs, and I definitely felt that my sojourn here had not come the full circle. The next vigil was scheduled for the 23rd of March, and I hoped to be there.

Unfortunately I came down with a chest infection and ended up in bed instead. I relocated from London early in April and never did get to return, so the images I have are all that I have to remember of this strange place.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Animals in War Memorial

Occasionally you discover a memorial, grave or monument that touches you deeply, and I have had quite a few of them, but the memorial I saw on the 7th of February may just have outshone them all. 

When you walk towards Marble Arch in London with Hyde Park on your left, you will come to the memorial dedicated to "Animals in War". It is a truly magnificent piece of work by designer David Backhouse, and it was carved by Richard Holliday and Harry Gray, and built by Sir Robert McAlpine LTD. The memorial is located at Google Earth Co-ordinate  51.511016°  -0.157499°.

On the day I visited it was a cold, wet and dull day. And many of the animals that served so faithfully during so many wars probably would have experienced days that were much worse than this. 

The memorial takes the form of a broken arc, with two heavily laden mules walking towards a vertical break in the arc. On the other side a horse and a dog walk towards the gardens beyond.

The dog is looking over his shoulder, and has an extremely expressive face, his head and nose shiney from the many people who pause and rub his head. He is a well loved figure. 

It is an extremely powerful work, and left me teary eyed. I just wanted to stay there and photograph and absorb its aura. 

All to often we forget that in the midst of the human carnage of warfare thre is often a massive loss of life amongst the animals that were used as porterage, weaponry, transportation and support. I don't think that there are any numbers of how many animals lost their lives on the battlefields. As is so eloquently stated "Many and various animals were employed to support British and Allied forces in wars and campaigns over the centuries and as a result millions died. From the pigeon to the elephant they all played a vital role in every region of the world in the cause of human freedom. Their contribution must never be forgotten."

I must return here one day, to see this in the sunlight, and to rub that nose and look at that long suffering mule. And again I will feel teary because even while I write Rhino are loosing their battle back in South Africa. And I suspect one day we may have to erect a memorial like this so show the world that mankind is very capable of making a species extinct even during peacetime.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

War Memorials in Kennington

In the immediate area where I am staying (SE5-0SY) there are 3 separate war memorials that I have seen. Two of which are situated in Kennington Park ( 51.484066°  -0.108817°).  

The first is known as the Civilian War Memorial, and it commemorates the over 100 people that were killed in an air raid trench in the park on 15 October 1940. A 50lb bomb caused one section of the trench to collapse, killing mostly women and children. The memorial was unveiled in 2006 and was made of Caithness stone by Richard Kindersley.

The main inscription reads: "History, despite its wrenching pain cannot be unlived but if faced with courage need not be lived again."

Very close to this memorial are all that is left of the Tinworth Fountain. It was erected in 1872, but damaged during the Blitz.  Possibly in the same incident.

The second war memorial in the park is situated in the one corner off the park. it has since been restored and I have been able to add in a new pic of it since I originally wrote this post. 

It seems to be dedicated to the 1/24th and 2/24th County of London Battalions, and The London Regiment (the Queens). During WW1 in France and Flanders, Salonika and Palestine. 

Memorial number 3 is situated in the grounds of St Mark's Church in Kennington. This very distinctive builidng was opened in 1824. It was bombed in September 1940 and scheduled for demolition, however it was partly re-opened in 1947 and fully re-opened in March 1960. 

This is a WW1 Memorial, with roughly 340 names on it. Could these numbers of locals be attributed to the  "Pals Battalions"

This memorial and church were on my list for a revisit, I know that there is more to see at the church, its just a case of getting it done. Unfortunately I was not able to do so before I left for Southampton. However, one of the books I was reading mentioned that executions were conducted in Kennington Common and on the spot now occupied by St Marks. Apparently those convicted at the Court of St Margaret's in Borough High Street were put to death at this spot, it also included the Jacobite Rebels, followers off Bonnie Prince Charlie. The gallows was situated where the church is today, although there is no evidence of it being there anymore. 

Monday, 4 March 2013

A quick stroll up the road,

I had decided that one of the places I wanted to visit in London was the Imperial War Museum. This  repository of all things military has a fearsome reputation of being an awesome place, amongst military historians caps are removed and it is spoke of in hushed tones. I decided that seeing as it was a mere 2 tube stops away I would tackle it on the first day. However, as I came to the exit of the Elephant and Castle Tube Station a sign informed me that it was closed till July!!!

I was seriously disappointed, but was still determined to see the place so boldly went walkies, Naturally having to turn around almost immediately because I was going in the wrong direction! Eventually I got my bearings and soon found the glorious building with those vintage naval guns dominating everything. 

I always was under the impression that the guns originated from HMS Rodney, but the information sheet informs that they originate from other ships; the left from HMS Ramillies, while the gun on the right is from HMS Resolution. Both are 15 inch guns with a range of about 29 kilometres. Their shells are no toys either, weighing in at about 876 kg. I was very overwhelmed by these guns though, they were still not the largest guns ever mounted on a battleship.

Lip dragging in the floor, I left those guns and headed in what I thought was the way home, only to end up in the maze of side streets that are in the Borough of Southwark. Unfortunately that was where I made a slight mistake and I ended up meandering around, being very overwhelmed by all I was seeing around me. 

The nice thing is that in the midst of this city there is both old and new side by side. Their age and condition varying from street to street. The traffic is fast moving, but disciplined; cars stop at pedestrian crossings, cyclists use hand signals and the robots actually work. It is also a very multicultural society and the area where I am staying has a real mix of European, Africa, Asian and everything in between. Sadly though I keep on bumping into South Africans!

That concluded my abortive trip to the Imperial War Museum. I am not amused!!! However, I will probably be around in July anyway, so may still get to see it. I look forward to that a lot.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Hello London.

Followers of this blog (all 3 of them), may have read that I was weighing anchor and heading off to London at the end of February. At the time of writing I have now been here for two days, and my legs are sore from my touristy jaunt I did today, I want to make this blog some sort of recordal of my "adventures" in the United Kingdom, so I may start enthusing a lot.

My trip started early on the 28th of February when I caught the Gautrain for the last time en route for the airport. I had booked with Emirates because I had flown with them before and service on the Johannesburg to Dubai leg  is wonderful, however I am not a fan of Dubai airport, but more about that later. Unusually the flight was a partial day flight, departing at 13H50. The first leg was on board a Boeing 777-300, one of my favourite commercial airliners, and IMHO one of the most comfortable. On board entertainment was wonderful, and the food and service was top class. I spent most of the flight catching up on movies that I had seen before.

Our arrival at Dubai was after an eight hour flight, which put me at GMT+4. And as usual I looked for those out of the window shots that I so love. I was fortunate that I got day

And sunset. 

It was while we were preparing to land that I realised that my bugbear was about to provide a way to a spend the 3 hour layover at Dubai airport. I even did a blogpost about this bugbear of mine. Yep, I had a time zone problem, and even now, two days later I still have not managed to correct the date on my landmine watch. Did I mention it is going to get dumped? Oh, the alarm now goes off at 21H15, and the date is Sunday 14TH.

Dubai airport, is crowded, large and impersonal, full of golf carts arrogantly shoving people aside and incomprehensible announcements. Part two of my flight was on one of those new fangled Airbus jobbies, They even have a dedicated terminal, and you get there by train!

My other bugbear with Dubai airport is that you cannot see the aircraft from inside it. So the only pic I have of that particular aircraft is this one... Yes, there is a thumping great Airbus behind the lace curtains.

Model seen at Heathrow in 2008.
Boarding took ages, after all there were a lot of people to squeeze into it, and I must admit it was very similar inside to the 777, I do suspect the people on the top deck probably had gold plated taps in the bathroom, but there were none in economy.

The flight was uneventful, although we were now heading back to GMT. (I won't even comment on trying to get my watch to understand that)

Then we dropped out of the sky into a damp and chilly London Heathrow. It was time to put my new visa to the test, and surprisingly enough passing through immigration was easy. Now I had to find my way to Kennington in South London which was where I was staying until 8 Feb. There were 3 options: Heathrow Express, Tube, or Coach. I suspect I am sucker for a train so chose the Tube. I had to change trains at 3 different places but surprisingly that in itself was a breeze.

However, part 2 of day 1 will come later, because today I spent in London sightseeing and my muscles are screaming in pain. I am not as young as I used to be.