Once again we met H&B at NZ House and we all parted company for the day, Linda to take Helen to Knightsbridge while Brian and I headed off down Whitehall to see the Cabinet War Rooms. Situated beneath a huge building of stone now housing some useless piece of the bureaucratic machine, the CWR has been set up exactly as it was left in 1945 when WW2 ended. When we went in we were each given a Walkman with a taped commentary complete with sound effects of the Blitz, wartime radio broadcasts and excerpts from Churchill’s “fight them on the beaches” speech. The labyrinth of corridors and rooms was full of the equipment used there during the war, from the encoding machine with which Churchill and Eisenhower communicated and in the original Cabinet War Room were all the original maps and wall charts complete with thousands of pinholes where coloured pins were inserted and removed as the fortunes and lives of millions of men were manipulated by the Allied commanders. Even the original scratchpads could still be seen with scribblings and doodles 50 years old upon them.
When we left the War Rooms we caught a bus over to Tower Bridge then walked around to the London Dungeon on Tooley Street. We spent an hour or so there and I think Beat was quite impressed with it. We then caught a random bus which took us to Liverpool Street where we caught the tube to Piccadilly Circus and sat on the fountain watching the myriad people go by.
We met Linda and Helen for a drink then H&B left us and we went down to New Zealand House to meet Mike. We spent a couple of hours drinking and yarning in Slap Harry’s Bar, then went for tea at the Stockpot. Mike is going down to West Africa on another Kumuka Overland trip then is taking a Unimog from Ghana over to Kenya. After that he reckoned he would finally go home as he has a girlfriend to meet in Timaru in another 6 months.¹
After we said goodbye and good luck to Mike, we walked back over to the nurses’ hostel where we recorded a tape to send to [our friends back home] Pippa and Chris.
¹Mike did, indeed, meet that girl in Timaru. He married her and they have two daughters: one of whom is now an Olympic rowing champion. They live on a farm not far from Geraldine where Linda and I live.