Sunday, 22 May 2016

Frank Bourne OBE DCM

So, remember this blog?


Well that’s probably not that unsurprising as I think at its very peak it reached a grand total of about 5 whole readers, but never the less, I hope this wide reaching readership is as delighted as I am to resurrect this particular pointless piece of internet drivel.

Also, if you also remember the point of the blog, it was to describe some of the interesting features of London that one simply can’t help tripping over whilst popping out for nothing more than an hour’s lunch break. Since my place of work has moved to Wimbledon, interesting things have been a little sparser on the ground compared to when I worked in the City, but that really just means I have to be more imaginative and generally stop hanging round train stations during lunch.

During Christmas 2014 I accidentally caught the annual presentation of the classic 1964 film, Zulu. In between watching Stanley Baker and Michael Caine once more push back the thousands of Zulu warriors, I started browsing and linking from one internet article to another internet article, researching the real facts behind the battle of Rorke’s Drift and the real people behind the film’s characters.

Nigel Green as CSgt Frank Bourne

For anyone who has seen the film, maybe like me, you were struck by the character of Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne, played in the film by the actor Nigel Green. In the film, Green is made up to appear as a whiskery army veteran and plays the part of CSgt Bourne in a very “now then boys, do you tunics up, officer on parade” Sergeant Major fashion. Something we would see Windsor Davis similarly do in the sitcom Ain’t Half Hot Mum around 10 years later.

It turns out that in reality at the time of the battle, CSgt Frank Bourne was a young senior NCO aged only 24. Two years earlier, at the age of 22 he had been promoted to Colour Sergeant becoming the youngest man in the entire British Army to hold this rank and had earned himself the nickname of “The Kid”.

Frank Bourne later in his military career. Here wearing the uniform of a Captain.

Also, unlike the actor Green, who was often cast in roles to suit his strapping size, Bourne was a smallish man, 5’ 6” tall, so completely different from the way the film’s producers had decided to depict the role.

In a similar fashion of turning the facts on their heads, Lieutenants Chard and Bromhead (played by Baker and Caine) were 31 and 33 years old respectively at the time of the battle, so perhaps not quite the young fresh-faced whippersnappers arguing over who had been commissioned first, that the film shows them to be.

The other real-life difference between these three main characters was that both Chard and Bromhead had died less than 20 years after the battle. Frank Bourne on the other hand out-survived every other soldier present at the battle and reached the grand old age of 91 when he died on VE Day in 1945.

The other fact that leapt to my eyes as I read about this colourful character was that Bourne is buried in Beckenham Cemetery and Crematorium and anyone who has previously dipped their toes into any of my other pointless blogs (Playing Monopoly, Oranges & Lemons, Flying the Flag) might remember that star of stage, screen and his local Nandos, Spikey Haired Ed, lives in Beckenham. I won’t publish his exact address as I’m sure his neighbours wouldn’t appreciate hordes of autograph hunting teenage girls queuing up around his flat, but this seemed like far too good an opportunity to arrange a things you see “after work” along with a catch up with Ed. The fact that it took us nearly 18 months to get around to organising something is perhaps another story.

Wimbledon Station in all its sunny glory.

One of the best things about working in Wimbledon is that the transport links are excellent and it’s possible to get a London Tramlink tram directly from Wimbledon to Beckenham Junction, which although may not be the fastest way to get there, it’s certainly very easy. So at just gone knocking off time, TL 2562 (which is one of only 6 Variobahn trams on the network (the other 24 being CR4000’s)) had one additional passenger for the long winding route to Beckenham.

Variobahn 2562 at Wimbledon.

Well I say Beckenham, in order to visit the cemetery I would have to change at Arena Tram Stop and then change onto the Beckenham branch for just one stop to Harrington Road.

Arena Tram Stop.

At Arena, look out for this woman with a strange Toll Gate sign coming out the top of her head.

Beckenham Crematorium and Cemetery lies just over the track from my alighting point on Harrington Road and although the iron gates were firmly locked for any vehicular access, the pedestrian gate was wide open. The cemetery isn’t a huge area but the amount of graves contained within is very numerous. Although there are tarmacked and non-tarmacked paths between the various plots, the amount and condition of some of the older graves makes it very hard to try to navigate an easy route to any particular grave you’re trying to locate.

Beckenham Crematorium & Cemetery.

I had managed to find a rough sketch diagram as to where Bourne’s grave was located, but the inaccuracy of the map and my rusty boy-scout navigational skills saw us take many a wrong turning on the stumbling route between the stone angels and stone crosses.

There are a few notable graves in Beckenham Crematorium and Cemetery and one of these is of Thomas Crapper, who, and let’s be very clear here, DID NOT invent the flush toilet, but did do lots of important work in the sanitary business and did develop other inventions such as the ball cock.
Quite by accident I came across Crapper’s grave which is a smart low white marble affair, which was at least something of interest as I tried yet another dead-end of the many paths leading around the other grave stones and although I was enjoying myself, as much as one can do when tramping around a cemetery, it was a tad frustrating not being able to locate Bourne’s own plot.

The final resting place of Thomas Crapper.

I guess I have something of a love-hate relationship with graveyards and cemeteries. On the one hand I like them for being interesting and historical places but on the other hand, it would be the last place I would want to come and remember my own loved ones, or indeed I would want loved ones to come and remember me. I guess it’s each unto their own, but looking at some of the considerable sized modern graves that were there, I guess there is no lack of interest to keep this particular fashion of remembrance in place, or indeed the money that is no doubt necessary to pay for some of the more fantastically appointed stones.

I was by now on my very last chance I’d given myself to locate the grave and was bumbling up another path when I spied a stone dedicated to a certain William John George Evans VC, and I knew from some of the reading I’d done beforehand that Bourne’s grave was located near to this other military hero. I’ll let others read up about Evans and what he did to earn his VC, but I’ll just say that I’m pleased to see his stone is looking rather better kept currently than the picture on his Wikipedia article shows.

William John George Evans VC

Bourne’s gravestone faces opposite Evans’s and is a modest, compared to some in the cemetery, stone affair with a bed of green coloured stone chippings in front. There were no fresh flowers on the grave but there again, there didn’t seem to be on any of the graves and I hadn’t brought any, so not making any judgements here. The grave is also home to Eliza Bourne, Frank’s wife and Constance Bourne, who by a calculation of the dates, may well have been his daughter.

Frank Bourne OBE DCM

Again I’ll leave it for others to do their own research in the rest of Bourne’s military career and some of the links I’ve provided at the bottom of this page will help. I’d really only be rehashing these if I reported it all here and what I found more interesting was the differences between fact and Hollywood fiction.

So with my mission accomplished I made my way to the north cemetery exit to re-join the tram route at Birbeck Tram Stop. Just as I was walking down the path leading to the exit, I spotted a large wire sided waste bin, which was almost completely empty apart from a bright blue ball-cock. What this was doing there or how it became to be there is of course a mystery…….but I’m sure Thomas Crapper appreciated the gesture!


Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Minories Railway Station – Accumulator Tower

On the way to a decidedly average Wetherspoon’s pub meal at Goodmans Field the other week, a group of us were walking under an elevated section of the Docklands Light Railway when I noticed a rather sad a forlorn derelict building on the right hand side. What made this place even more intriguing was the fading white writing on one side of it, where you could just make out the words “Station” and “Stores”.

I must admit I had noticed this place before but it was always hidden behind the locked gates of a temporary car park. Now there were some brand new smart hoardings announcing the Royal Mint Gardens, a new development of apartments.

A quick bit of internet research reveals that this was the last remaining building of the former Minories Railway Station which having gone through various renames and rebirths was finally demolished in 1987 when the Docklands Light Railway opened Tower Gateway Station which stands in the same location. The building in question is apparently the former accumulator tower, hydraulics and bonded stores and if you want to know what might have gone on in the building I’d recommend a quick read of the Urban75 link at the bottom of the page.

The view up Mansell Street to the tower. DLR train in Tower Gateway Station to the left.

The mystery writing did at one time proclaim “London Midland & Scottish Railway City Goods Station and Bonded Stores” but as previously mentioned only a couple of these words can be made out today.

As I noted this as a potential TYSAL candidate I also spotted that the tracks for the DLR ran right by the building so once I’d done a re-visit from ground level I could use part of the lunchtime visit to take a trip on the DLR past the building.

Unfortunately from ground level there’s not much more you can see that what I’d noticed from the first time I’d walked past. Certainly the building is looking very worse for wear with plants growing out of the exposed rafters on the roof. There doesn’t look to be any floors intact from what you can just about see through the windows.

View of the tower along Tower Gateway Platform.

There’s a handy entrance to Tower Gateway Station just over the other side of Mansell Street and this leads you directly out to the platform which although has two sides has just a single track in the middle. By walking down to the end of the platform you can get a good view of the Accumulator Tower although the other sides which are not visible from the road don’t have anything special about them, including any writing.

I hopped on the train that was waiting and was only slightly disappointed to find the best seats in the train, i.e. the “driver’s” seat were already taken by two young boys but I still had a good view of the tower as we travelled past. My original plan was just to go one stop down the line to Shadwell Station and then return but I thought this might look a bit weird so instead travelled to Canary Wharf and spent a pleasant ½ hour strolling around the docks where’s there’s more than a few random statues and art installations to look at and more than a few arrogant banker dickheads to avoid as best you can.

View of West India Quay from West India Quay DLR Station.

A trip to Canary Wharf and West India Quay would be a TYSAL in its own right but I did walk past this very fine looking namesake outside the Museum of London Docklands.

 You would have thought if Robert was deserving of a statue, he'd be deserving of his full name?

The return trip was only eventful in that I hopped on and off DLR trains until finally I got one returning to Tower Gateway from Shadwell and managed to “baggsie” the driver’s seat. Needless to say I got the best view possible of the Accumulator Tower as we approached the station.
It will be interesting to see how the Royal Mint Gardens progress and I hope that the Accumulator Tower becomes an integral part of the new building and isn’t just pulled down to make way for some bland apartments.

Urban75 - Accumulator tower, hydraulics and bonded stores, Royal Mint St, E1
Minories Railway Station - Wikipedia
Royal Mint Gardens

Friday, 14 March 2014

Vauxhall Bridge

The inspirations for the Things You See At Lunch tours are sometimes things I’ve just noticed accidentally on my daily traipses around London, sometimes they are things that I’ve always wanted to see and sometimes they are things I come across on TV or writings which have then piqued my interest and require some further investigation.

Today’s entry was inspired by something I read in that very fine free newspaper, loved by all commuters, The Metro, in which they featured an interview with Sandi Tioksvig where she described some of her favourite places in London. One of the places she mentioned was Vauxhall Bridge and the fact that this very functional piece of the London transport system features 8 huge statues of women along each side. The women, interestingly sculptured by two separate artists, are supposed to represent; Agriculture, Architecture, Engineering, Pottery, Science, Fine Arts, Local Government and Education. 7 of those subjects are reoccurring themes in many works of art but I was interested to see how that exciting and dynamic subject of Local Government was going to be depicted. There’s was only going to be one way to find out………

Vauxhall Bridge - Looking downstream.

Regular readers will know that I work on the north bank of Tower Bridge and those with a passing knowledge of London geography will know that this is way downstream whilst Vauxhall Bridge is quite a way away in the other direction to the west.

The tube journey was simple but rather lengthy. The only exciting thing about the District Line train from Tower Hill to Victoria was the fact I squeezed through the closing door of a train leaving platform 2, which is the middle platform used for a regulating service that doesn’t travel any further east. Hardly the joke of the century but it always amusing to see tourists hurriedly stumbling down the stairs when they realise there’s a train waiting on the platform only to find it’s not leaving for 15 minutes and they’ve now missed the service on platform 1.

The change at Victoria was easy enough without too much of a hike underground between lines and it was then only two stops on the Victoria Line to take me south to Vauxhall station. Interesting point to note on the Victoria Line is the tiled motifs which are used to identify the stations. Vauxhall, where I left the train has an impression of the Old Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.

Nice tiles!

Emerging into the bright sunshine I found myself on the west bank of the Bridge with the A202 stretching out over the bridge to the north. There were some handy steps to the side which allowed me to access the Riverside Walk and get a good view of the upstream side of the bridge and the 4 magnificent ladies standing guard on this side. Unfortunately although the statues are a sizable, a hefty 2 tonnes each, at this distance it was impossible to make out exactly who was who.

A202 leading over the bridge.
Miss Pottery viewed from the Riverside Walk

Passing under the bridge along the Riverside Walk I could get a view of the downstream side of things but again was too far away to get any sense of detail. That said though the bridge is quite brightly coloured and on a nice sunny day like today, stands out quite beautifully.

Vauxhall Bridge - Looking upstream.

Mounting back up to the top of the bridge I started my crossing on the downstream side and was able by a little bit of acrobatical leaning over the side to get a look at the 4 ladies on this side in more detail.

This is what Miss Science, Miss Fine Art, Miss Education and Miss Local Government look out on.
Miss Pottery, Miss Engineering, Miss Architecture and Miss Agriculture get this.

The first magnificent creature was Miss Science and although I could only really see her profile the globe she is carrying was quite clear from this angle. Next in line is Miss Fine Art complete with sculptured nude in her hand. Thirdly is Miss Education complete with protective arm around a child and finally, even though I didn’t realise it at the time is Miss Local Government complete with ledger in hand and an outstretched pointing arm. Perhaps she was showing someone the queue for housing benefit or something?

Upon reaching the North bank I cross the road and made by way back to the start of the bridge to view the statues from the upstream side. The first lady from this point of view was Miss Agriculture complete with wheat sheaf in hand and next to her was Miss Architecture and I could just about make out the model of St Paul’s Cathedral which he holds. Apparently this is known as the smallest Cathedral in the country although I would challenge that with the model of Coventry Cathedral being held by the effigy of Huyshe Yeatman-Biggs on his tomb.

View from the north side. MI6 building in the top left.
From L-R: Miss Agriculture, Miss Architecture, Miss Engineering, Miss Pottery.

To end off the visit my plan was to stroll up to Pimlico Tube Station and get the tube back from there. This route took me through the lovely little park of Bessborough Gardens complete with tinkling water fountain. At the north exit I could spot the limp flags of the European Union and Lithuania denoting the Lithuanian Embassy across the road.

Pimlico Station is just around the corner and after a quick photo of their tiled walls (yellow spots denoting the modern art of the nearby Tate Britain gallery, it was time to take the tube back to work. All done is just over an hour………..thanks Sandi, it was well worth it.


Secret Cities
Victoria Line Tiles

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Waterloo and City

I like the London Underground. The names, the connections, the colour-coding of the various lines, the map all appeal to my sense of OCD and for all those who decry its rigid unsociability would surely admit that it’s still a wonderful place for people watching.

My daily Tube route is a fairly basic half loop around the Circle Line from Paddington to Tower Hill, but every once in a while I also mix this up with a quick dive down the Bakerloo Line to Embankment and then a cut across to Tower Hill on the District Line. Variety, as they say, is the spice!

Not even the tourists I seem to bump into every day could get lost on this line.

Even to the casual observer there’s one of the eleven lines which stands out as a little bit special. This is the Waterloo & City line, which with its grand total of two stations is never going to feature on many a tourist’s route map. Never having travelled on this, dare I say, whimsical little line, I thought this would make an ideal episode of Things You See At Lunch.

Those familiar with the Tube layout will quickly realise that from my terminus of Tower Hill I only needed to make the one stop west on the District Line to Monument and then walk through the miles of tunnels to Bank and jump on the targeted turquoise line.

The first job was simply done, delayed only by a sluggish Tube worker who stumbled down the stairs at snail’s pace meaning I missed one tube and had to wait at least all of three minutes for the next one. The route through Monument to the Bank side of this joined station is torturous to say the least. You go down two escalators (stand on the right) along two corridors (walking first on the right then the left) and back up two escalators before taking the “branch” corridor to the Waterloo & City platforms.

Going down the first escalator.

The rather space-age looking corridor to the Waterloo & City Line.

As you would expect, there are still two platforms because although there’s only two stations, it’s not a shuttle service. Taking advice from the sign which told me the next train was coming into the other platform I crossed over and had but to wait a minute or two for the arrival of said train.

Go to the other platform.

Alright I will. The train that took me from Bank to Waterloo.

The trains running on the W&C are only four carriages long, much shorter than the ones serving the other lines, but the actual design of the carriages are the same. I was never the less delighted to see that the bars in the carriage were done in matching turquoise, which is something I think is a must. I’ve still never forgiven the “black” Northern Line for using yellow bars!

Turquoise bars and empty carriages.

I’m guessing the line might be chocca with commuters during rush hours, but on a quiet Tuesday lunchtime there was only a smattering of others in my carriage and the only people watching I could do was the pink boots of the woman opposite.

The view down the tunnel to the depot.

The journey took exactly 4 minutes 14 seconds so before I knew it were had dived 7 metres under the Thames and emerged at Waterloo. At the end of the platform you could take a peek down the rest of the tunnel to the line’s terminus where the trains undergo their repairs and maintenance. One other difference between this line and all the rest is that it’s all totally “underground” and the rolling stock has to be lifted by cane in and out of the line. All the other lines have some part of their route overground, apart from the Victorian Line but even this has its depot overground.

Waterloo Station Clock.

The foot journey into Waterloo station is much quicker at this end and before you could say “nice station clock” I’d walked from my emerging point by Platform 6 and re-entered the underground system by Platform 18.

The platforms at Waterloo work differently to the ones at Bank though, basically from what I can make out, you have an arrivals platform and a departures platform, unlike Bank where you have two platforms both welcoming and dispatching trains.

The "exit" platform at Waterloo.

The train that took me from Waterloo to Bank.

Anyway, this difference acknowledged it was time for the 4 minute journey back in a completely empty carriage, which isn’t very good for people watching at all.

Deciding I didn’t want to traipse back through the corridors and escalators back to Monument I exited through the barriers and took the spectacular 140 metres worth of Travelator back to Bank proper. I then left the station to make my way back overground and promptly got caught in a cloud burst and arrived back at the office dripping!

Travelling the Travelator.

Want some more facts about the Waterloo & City?
  • The line opened in 1898 but was the last line to be incorporated into London Underground from British Rail in 1994
  • Bank station was originally called City, hence the name of the line.
  • The length of the line is 2.37 kms
  • The line has the nickname “The Drain”
Will that do? No? Then do your own reading!

The Bank at City.