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Wednesday, September 1, 1943.

All flying limited to local formation because of low ceilings throughout the day. Nothing further to report, all quiet on this side of the channel! A number of 386th Airmen were off to London with a well earned 48-hour pass. They headed for Rainbow Corner, a Red Cross Headquarters in London for servicemen on leave. It was located near the heart of Piccadilly Circus. A short distance away was a curb high island, its circular shape formed a hub around which a street ran. Many other streets fanned out from it like the spokes of a wheel. In the center of the island was a large tall wooden structure. It was constructed of heavy planks to protect a huge pedestal inside from the possible debris of war, except for the circular sidewalk.

Before World War II the pedestal was the support for Alfred Gilbert’s lithe statue of Eros, the Greek god of love. It was originally installed in 1892. It had been removed to a safer location for the duration of the war. In 1985 the lead-alloy statue was removed for refurbishing, it was reinstalled on its pedestal in 1986.

In close proximity of the structure, a much more pleasant looking distraction—Piccadilly Commandos as they were known. Literally hundreds of young women patrolling most of the sidewalks in the area. All seemed to have the same sad story for entering the age old profession—their sweetheart had been a Spitfire Pilot killed during the Battle Of Britain. If most of those stories had been true, they would certainly be in conflict with the words of Prime Minister Winston Churchill regarding the Battle Of Britain when he stated, "Never in the field of human conflict, was so much owed by so many, to so few!"

Many Group members found interesting places to visit, such as Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum. Life size figures of notables like Kings and Queens, and others of past and present history were dressed in clothing of their times. Most of the current world leaders were represented—Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Hideki Togo, Adolph Hitler, and Benito Mussolini, made a most impressive exhibit.

Another place of fascination was a museum of medieval torture contrivances. On display were items like a rack, a thumb screw device, along with chains and shackles. Another chilling object was an iron mask—it would be placed over a man’s head much like a Knight’s helmet which was then locked. It was constructed in such a manner that the victim could be fed: however eventually the prisoner would be choked to death by his own beard!

Some of the more intellectual Group members elected to visit the University located at Cambridge. Another spot of interest was Stratford-on-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. During these past months 386th personnel continued to visit London and and other historical places while on forty-eight hour passes—a number of crews were eligible for seven day furloughs as well. London always the most frequented spot, tours of the Tower Of London were a popular pastime. It is located in the East End of London on the north bank of the River Thames.

Tower men called Yeomen Warders were dressed in very colorful uniforms of red and blue with gold trim. The Tower serves as a storehouse for the Royal Jewels. Tower guides pointed out a location in the huge courtyard where the chopping block had stood when Queen Anne Boleyn was beheaded on May 19, 1536! There is a long room with a high ceiling in the Tower where a large collection of armor is on display, some of it dating back to the early 1500’s.

Our tour guide related how King Richard III seized his young nephews—at that time they stood between him and the Throne, circa 1482. The boys were known as Edward V and his brother The Duke Of York, they were ten and twelve years of age respectively. Supposedly the boys were smothered with pillows in the very room where the visiting young American Airmen were now standing!

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Chester P. Klier
Historian, 386th Bomb Group

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