Units Overseas Tour: London

Written by: Lynn Young, President General
October 31, 2014

Early Tuesday morning, October 13, we departed our Paris hotel for the train station, grateful to be escorted by Frédérique de Beaumont.  We traveled by the high speed Eurostar train, allowing us a panoramic view of the French countryside via the “Chunnel” to London.  Upon our arrival at the International Train Station in London, we were met by Walter Hines Page Chapter Regent, Diana Diggines, Vice Regent, Meg Horvath, St. James Chapter Acting Regent Natalie Ward and member Laura Taylor at the Kitchen Tower, a restaurant featuring traditional British food in casual setting, overlooking the Tower of London.  I thoroughly enjoyed a generous serving of traditional fish and chips! 

Diana, Natalie and former St. James Regent, Nicole Escue, had thoughtfully planned a number of outings to accommodate the schedules of their members.  Our visit began with a tour of All Hallows by the Tower Church, where we were joined by Mindy Kammeyer, Reporter General, who will travel on with us to Spain, Italy and Austria.  The church was founded in 675 AD predating the Tower of London by 300 years. While the church escaped the London Fire in 1666, it was damaged by the bombs of World War II.  Upon rebuilding the church, they discovered it was atop an ancient Roman home, built about 140 A.D.  It continues to be a challenge for me to comprehend the age of these ancient cities!

John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States, married at this church in 1797 and the marriage register signed by the President and his wife is on display in the undercroft in a special wooden display case presented by NSDAR in 1985 during the King Administration.  On our walking tour back to the Tube Station, we visited the Field of Poppies consisting of almost 900,000 ceramic poppies, one for each of the British and colonial soldiers killed in World War I, in memory of the 100th anniversary of the Great War.  The poppies spill out of a window in the Tower of London into the moat and appear to be a river of blood.  It is a very compelling and dramatic sight.

We returned to our hotel to get some rest and to allow my husband, Steve, to process the hundreds of photographs he had taken on the first portion of the trip.

On Wednesday, October 15, we began our visit with the chapters in the United Kingdom with a tour of Middle Temple Hall, built from 1562-1573.  This Hall is one of the few ancient Inns of Court and continues to serve the legal profession.  Sir Frances Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh dined in the hall, as did five signers of the Declaration of Independence and seven signers of the United States Constitution, all lawyers educated at Middle Temple.  We were hosted for lunch at the high table at the west end of the Hall.  This 29 foot long table was made from a single Oak tree from Windsor Great Forest and presented to the Middle Temple by Queen Elizabeth I before the Temple was completed.  The table has never left the hall since then and has been the place of honor for seating of the Royal family and special guests for centuries.  It is a singular honor for the President General and the DAR delegation to be invited to dine at this table.

Following lunch we were given a guided tour of The Temple Church which was built in 1185 by the Knights Templar and is the home of the Inner and Middle Temple, two of London’s four ancient Inns of Court.  Every barrister in England and Wales is a member of one of these four Inns.  This is also one of the churches made famous in the novel, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.  The church has an exhibit on World War I and you can imagine our amazement and pride when one of the first things we saw upon entering the ancient church was a poster of our own Memorial Continental Hall, now the Library, taken in 1921 at the Conference on the Limitation of Armaments.  The desk on which the Treaty was signed is featured in our Americana Collection and Memorial Continental Hall received the National Registered Historical Landmark designation by virtue of the event.

At the conclusion of our visit, we walked several blocks to the Benjamin Franklin House where we were given a tour and narrated reenactment of his time in London.  This is the only remaining house in the world where Benjamin Franklin lived and is supported financially by both chapters in the United Kingdom.  It was also a recipient of one of the Special Project Grants during the Wright Administration.

Following a short “Tube” ride back to our hotel, we quickly changed for the official joint meeting of the Walter Hines Page and the St. James Chapters held at the University Women’s Club.  Virginia Lingelbach, National Chair, Units Overseas, presided at the meeting at which reports were given by Diana Diggines, Regent of Walter Hines Page Chapter and Natalie Ward, Acting Regent of St. James Chapter. 

The Walter Hines Page Chapter was organized in 1925 and named for the U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. during World War I. Among their many interests is support of George Washington’s ancestral home, Sulgrave Manor, for which they received a Special Project Grant.  They currently have 118 members and 250 associate members.

The St. James Chapter was organized in 1990 on the centennial of NSDAR’s founding and currently have about 30 members.  Both chapters support All Hallows by the Tower Church as well as many other worthwhile organizations and are grateful for their many associate members.

It was a pleasure to give a brief presentation on the activities of the National Society and to present a certificate to Diana for the chapter’s 100% participation in the President General’s Project.   Both chapters presented generous contributions to the President General’s Project. 

Laurie Atkins, past Regent of Walter Hines Page Chapter and her late husband, Gary, spent several years documenting and photographing the memorials near their home in Norfolk and Suffolk of the USAAF soldiers killed in World War II.   It was an honor to present her with a special certificate recognizing their extraordinary effort to ensure the lives of these brave Americans would not be forgotten.

The meeting was well attended by members and prospective members of both chapters.  Following the meeting, we adjourned to a larger room where we were joined by spouses for a lovely reception and traditional English dinner of mushroom soup, roast pork chop and rhubarb crumble.  After expressing our appreciation and bidding good night to all, we concluded our evening with a short ride to our hotel in the very traditional and iconic Black London Taxi; the perfect ending to a perfect day.

On our last full day in London, we took advantage of the close proximity of our hotel to Buckingham Palace by visiting the Palace gift shop.  I could not resist the pink Princess pajamas for Campbell and the Palace guard pajamas for Cade and Jake!  No trip would be complete without a visit to Buckingham Palace and we managed to see the end of the Changing of the Guards at the Palace.  I was tempted to return to the shop for the Palace Guard hats for the boys, but doubted they would fit in my suitcase.

Late that afternoon, the Daughters of Walter Hines Page and St. James Chapters arrived to escort us through London, via the Tube to St. Paul’s Cathedral where we were joined by Molly Ker Hawn’s adorable daughter, Sterrett. The church was founded in 604 by King Ethelbert of Kent and Christians have worshipped at a succession of cathedrals since that time.  The present church was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and was built between 1675 -1711.  Many historical events and celebrations have taken place in this magnificent cathedral, including Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee.  Many royal marriages have taken place here, including the marriage of HRH Prince Charles, Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer. In 1964 Martin Luther King, Jr. preached at St. Paul’s before receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

Upon arriving at the Cathedral we were met by a guide for an official tour and overview of the Nave, Altar and Crypt. At the east end of the Cathedral behind the High Altar is the American Memorial Chapel. This part of the building was destroyed during the Blitz and as part of the post-war restoration the people of Britain chose to commemorate the 28,000 Americans who were killed on their way to, or stationed in, the UK during the Second World War. Their names are recorded in the 500-page roll of honor encased behind the High Altar. This was presented by General Eisenhower in 1951 and a page of the book is turned every day. The crypt of St. Paul’s is not only the final resting place of many important historical figures, but also houses monuments to conflicts and those lost in battle as well as memorials to historical figures. 

By special arrangements, the Daughters were invited to be seated in the Quire, the first part of the church to be built and consecrated, for the Evensong Service.  We were extremely surprised and honored when the Dean of the Cathedral delivered to the large congregation a public welcome to the “President General National Society Daughters of the American Revolution and delegation.”  As the service concluded, we were moved not only by the glorious beauty of the building, but the opportunity to join in worship as others have done in this spiritual place for centuries.

With gratitude and reluctance, we said goodbye to the Daughters of the Walter Hines Page and St. James Chapter and we look forward to welcoming the United Kingdom delegation at Congress next summer.

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