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In recent times I have found myself traveling from my beloved north to the wicked South in order to spend time with he who is known as Mr Scuba (more commonly referred to as the petboy). But on the latest occasion I was unable to spend the entire day with him thanks to his having to work so was in need of something to do to keep myself amused before my time to head north again.
As I was in the car I decided to head out towards Virginia Water and while seeking a practical place to park and take a stroll spotted a sign for the 'Air Forces Memorial' it took my interest so following a succession of increasingly small signs I made my way to the Runnymede site.
Runnymede is better known as the site at which the Magna Carta was signed, and in fact the Memorial over looks the meadow which is believed to have been this site.
Finding the Memorial is fairly painless, follow the small brown tourist signs down the lane, but be careful there is a white sign which indicates that the Memorial Carpark is on your right, next to another small brown sign telling you the memorial itself is further down the road.
Parking here is free and there are a good 40 or so spaces, on my visit there were only two other cars in the car park. From here walk a short distance down the lane to the memorial entrance itself.
The entry is marked by two stone gate posts inscribed simply with 'Air Forces Memorial ' which is painted in light airforce blue. Approaching the Memorial through these gates you find yourself in a peaceful garden with the impressive looking symmetrical building directly infront of you.
The building is formed by cloisters enclosing a grassy quadrangle with a plinth in the centre on which rested at the time of my visit several poppy wreaths. The cloisters have on the walls inscribed the names of ever airman lost with no known grave, and the sheer scale of numbers is extremely humbling.
If you are visiting to find the name of a particular person there are found within the memorial two registers of names, which provide the panel number a name is inscribed on. The panels run in numerical order around the building to make this task somewhat easier. Each panel tells you from which airforce each person named belonged to and really brings home just how international the world wars truely were.
In good weather it is possible to ascend to a viewing platform on top of the rear cloister, from here you can overlook the Thames, and the planes at Heathrow as they take off and land.
I was lucky in that on my visit I was for the majority of the time the sole occupant of the memorial site, which allowed for a period of quiet reflection, I suspect on busier times this peace would be somewhat difficult to repeat.