Like many men ( and some women too I guess ) Tony is very interested in World War II and of course when we visit England we realise just how close it was to the fighting.
Being a former commercial pilot he is passionately interested in the RAF and on our last visit we spent a whole day at Duxford Air Field Museum near Cambridge.
On this visit we had booked, via email, a tour of the Battle of Britain Bunker at Uxbridge.
It was from this bunker, 60 foot below ground level, that all air operations were controlled during WWII.
The RAF base was officially closed on March 31, 2010 so it proved quite a difficult task to find the bunker on the almost deserted base but we Aussies are made of stern stuff and we persevered till we finally found the right place - and only one whole hour late for the fore mentioned tour!!
There is no marking on the gate to indicate that this is the right place- indeed that it was ever an RAF base and you have to walk quite a way in before you begin to see signs that you have found the right place.
The bunker has been preserved as a museum and is more or less exactly as it was at the end of WWII and is manned by volunteers who conduct the guided tours.
We gave our profuse apologies explaining that our directions and contact phone numbers were completely wrong. ( Apparently something to do with the closing of the base )
Two friendly volunteers, Chris ( who is responsible for setting up the whole museum ) and John ( a trainee guide ), both ex-servicemen were there to guide us and the tour was only us, so we were given the royal treatment.
The bunker is, of course, very inconspicuous.
You quickly descend the 60 foot by way of stairs - lots of them!
They lead directly into the Operations Room.
It was from this room that all operations in what was to be called "The Battle of Britain" were directed as well as all air cover for the evacuation of Dunkirk.
The Ops Room is virtually as it was at the end of the war with uniformed manikins in place to demonstrate how it worked.
It was affectionately known as "The Hole" by the personnel, mainly women, who worked there.
Twenty WAAFs worked around the table in pairs. Each pair comprised a Plotter and a Teller.
The Plotter made up the blocks and pushed them onto the table, whilst the Teller spoke via a headset directly to the Observer Corps of Fighter Command HQ at RAF Bentley Priory, Stanmore.
The map and markers to show the position of each squadron are all still in place and the large map is angled so that it could be easily viewed from the observation decks on a higher level.
The boards at the rear indicate all the squadrons and their status was shown by a sequence of lights progressing down the board.
The plotting room is overlooked by three glass fronted cabins. The duty controller and Ops A personnel sat in the centre cabin.
One corner cabin was occupied by Observer Corps personnel, balloon officers and the other by Army (Anti-aircraft and searchlights) and Royal Navy personnel.
The Battle of Britain Museum is housed in the Controllers' Room, Observer Corps Room, Anti Aircraft Room and Map Rooms.
This is not a tourist attraction and there is no charge for the tour.
It is maintained as a memorial to all those brave members of the air crews who defended Britain against terrible odds at great personal cost.
"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."
A memorable experience for both of us.
Visits must be booked in advance either
by telephone - 01895 815400 from UK (+441895 815400 from overseas )
or email - email@example.com