1239 Squadron London Visit

Staff and Cadets from 1239 (Broxbourne & Hoddesdon) Squadron recently visited London, following an invitation to be given a tour around London's historic Mansion House.

The Mansion House, which was built between 1739 and 1752, is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London and its' elaborately decorated rooms are used for some of the City of London's official functions.

The Squadron's tour around the historic Georgian building started on the ground floor in the Walbrook Hall, which was created in 1845 and is the Lord Mayor's private entrance to the Mansion House. After a tour of the ground floor, covering Walbrook Hall and Waiting Hall and the various paintings and sculptures, the Squadron moved to the first floor via the North-East staircase viewing some of the paintings of the Harold Samuel collection, which comprises 84 paintings by 17th Century Dutch and Flemish masters.

On the first floor, the Staff and Cadets visited several rooms including the Saloon and Passage Room which contained numerous items of furniture, Sculptures and paintings. The Saloon is reputed to have 'the best chandeliers in the country, except for Buckingham Palace' and which date back to 1875; the largest chandelier of which, has 36 lamps, 1,007 pieces and weighs 606 pounds.

Staff and cadets of 1239 Squadron pictured at the Mansion House in the North State Drawing Room with John Davies Keeper of Walbrook Hall.

After viewing the Long Parlour, the Squadron entered the State Drawing Rooms where VIPs gather before a reception. The State Drawing Rooms has further paintings from the Harold Samuel collection.

Next was the Egyptian Hall, which is the main reception room at Mansion House and is so-called because it was designed on how it's architect, George Dance, thought how an Egyptian Hall would look. The Egyptian Hall has beautiful stained glass windows that were designed by Alexander Gibbs and which were installed in 1868, and its walls are lined by specially commissioned statues that represent figures from the classical world.

Before leaving the Mansion House, the Squadron visited the Plate Room which houses one of the largest and finest gold and silver plate collections in the world including the Lord Mayor's sword and mace, and the pearl sword which, according to legend, was used by Elizabeth I at the opening of Royal Exchange in 1571.

After the Mansion House visit, the Staff and Cadets went to the Guildhall which is the home of the City of London Corporation, and has been since the twelfth century. Like the Mansion House, the Guildhall is used for official functions i.e. banquets in honour of visiting Heads of State and other dignitaries, royal occasions, and receptions for major historical anniversaries.

Murray Craig, Clerk of the Chamberlain's Court. Guildhall with staff and cadets of 1239 Squadron

Whilst at the Guildhall, the Squadron had lunch and then a tour that included the 'Great Hall' which is where the 'Silent Ceremony' (the admission of the Lord Mayor of the City of London) is held each year, the Crypt (of which, the East Crypt, which is the oldest part of Guildhall and dates back to 1042 and Edward the Confessor). The stained glass windows of the Crypt depict numerous pictures of famous figures in history; Geoffrey Chaucer, William Caxton, Sir Thomas More, Sir Christopher Wren and Samuel Pepys. The Squadron also visited the Grade II listed Old Library and met the Clerk to the Chamberlains Court, who gave a very interesting talk on the Freedom of the City of London.

After the Guildhall tour, the Squadron visited the Royal Air Force Club in Piccadilly for light refreshments and a tour of the facilities of the club. The club contains numerous paintings of aircraft and aviation through the ages, and on the first floor corridor there are hundreds of RAF Squadron crests on the wall.

Staff and cadets of 1239 Squadron pictured at the Royal Air Force Club, Piccadilly.

The Staff and cadets took the opportunity to have a photograph taken in front of the stained glass window situated at the back staircase. The stunning window, which measures twenty feet tall and seven feet wide was commissioned to commemorate the Royal Air Force's 90th anniversary and depicts a Battle of Britain pilot scrambling to get airborne and looking up to a sky filled with aircraft and events from every decade of the RAF's existence.


The final part of the day involved the Squadron visiting the Bomber Command memorial at Green Park to pay their respects to the fallen. The memorial was unveiled in 2012 by HM The Queen and honours the sacrifice of Bomber Command aircrew and commemorates the 55,573 airmen who lost their lives.

The Bomber Command Memorial

Bronze sculptures of seven aircrew stand at the heart of the memorial and the design for the roof incorporates sections of aluminium recovered from a Handley Page Halifax III bomber (LW682 from 426 Squadron RAF) shot down over Belgium on the night of 12 May 1944, in which eight crew were killed.

In all, the Squadron's visit to London was a busy, yet informative and enjoyable day.