Earlier today I visited my elder brother, in the family home we shared as children in Englefield Green, up the hill from Egham in the county of Surrey. I chose today for this fraternal reunion because the weather forecast was particularly encouraging, and I wanted also to include a visit to the nearby Air Forces Memorial.
This was my first view of this Memorial:
As you can see, the weather forecast was not wrong.
What I have always liked about the Air Forces Memorial is the views from the top of the tower. Climb that, and you are above the trees and can look out over the Thames Valley. On a day like today, you can see clearly, for miles. To the left, you can see Windsor:
That being one of Windsor’s grander dwellings.
Straight ahead, you can see Heathrow Airport. That big shed with the arch-like end is Terminal Five. Above and beyond it is the new Wembley Stadium, with its new Arch.
And way over to the right, you can see London, although not quite so clearly:
With most of these snaps clicking is optional. To make much sense of that, clicking is necessary.
I doubt if my taste is shared by all who visit it, but I like it that, from the top of this memorial to airmen of the past, you can see lots of present day aviation. It is good, I think, to be reminded that a lot of the work that went into making all those war planes, that so many thousands of young men died in, later helped to make better peace planes, so to speak. Some of these planes taking off from Heathrow just move right to left, off to America. But many of them make a left turn towards Europe, and fly right over:
As I say, the weather was really good, and it was that weather which got me to the Air Forces Memorial today. Only after I had fixed to visit my brother did I realise that today was going to be November 11th, and Remembrance Sunday, all (which is not how it usually happens) in one. Consequently, there were a few more people there than I can recall from past visits, although it wasn’t anything like crowded:
And there aren’t usually many of these, or not out in the open:
Whenever I visit war memorials, it’s the little personal messages that I often find most moving, like this one:
Or this one:
In the train from London to Egham and back, I continued with my reading of Steven Pinker’s book about the decline of human nastiness in general and of warfare in particular. Although Pinker would be the first to agree – to insist – that a downward trend is not the same as abolition.
Visiting a war memorial with twenty thousand names on it, and on the very day that so many others are also thinking along similar lines, made me hope even more keenly that the trend in human affairs that Steven Pinker identifies and tries to explain will continue.