My Visit with Archie – Page 10

My Visit with Archie – Page 10

“Show me the way to go home…”

We boarded a return cruise boat and started back up stream. We checked out the London skyline:3900 The Gherkin1One building we saw on the way down is called the “Gherkin” I guess because it looks like a pickle? It is at 30 St Mary Axe and is known informally as “the Gherkin” (previously the Swiss Re Building). It is a skyscraper in London‘s main financial district.  (The other financial district is the Canary  Wharfs we passed e=on the way down.) Ccompleted in December 2003 and opened in May 2004. With 41 floors, the tower is 591 ft) tall and stands on a street called St Mary Axe, on the site of the former Baltic Exchange, which was extensively damaged in 1992 by the explosion of a bomb placed by the Provisional IRA.

The building has become an iconic symbol of London and is one of the city’s most widely recognized examples of modern architecture.

3910 The Cheese GraterAnother nearby building you can see from the river is the 737 ft-tall Leadenhall Building. The skyscraper, due for completion in mid-2014, is informally known as the Cheesegrater because of its distinctive wedge shape. It is one of a number of new tall buildings for the City of London financial district.

3950 Thames City HallWe crossed the Thames and walked along a nice promenade and passed the new London City Hall. It has been compared variously to Darth Vader‘s helmet, a misshapen egg, a woodlouse and a motorcycle helmet. A former mayor  referred to it as a “glass testicle“. It’s unusual, bulbous shape, purportedly is intended to reduce its surface area and thus improve energy efficiency, although the excess energy consumption caused by the exclusive use of glass overwhelmed the benefit of shape.

4000 Thames HMS BelfastWe finally came to another of my trip goals: The HMS Belfast.  It is now a museum ship, originally a Royal Navy light cruiser, and permanently moored in London on the River Thames and operated by the Imperial War Museum. She was launched on St Patrick’s Day, 17 March 1938. Commissioned in early August 1939 shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War.

The Belfast had an overall length of 613 feet 6 inches, a beam of 63 feet 4 inches and a draught of 17 feet 3 inches. Her standard displacement during her sea trials was 10,420 long tons ]She was propelled by four three-drum oil-fired  boilers, turning  geared steam turbines, driving four propeller shafts. She was capable of 37.4 mph.

The Battle of the North Cape was a Second World War naval battle which occurred on 26 December 1943, as part of the Arctic Campaign. The German battlecruiser Scharnhorst, on an operation to attack Arctic Convoys of war matériel from the Western Allies to the USSR, was brought to battle and sunk by superior Royal Navy forces—the battleship HMS Duke of York plus several cruisers (including the Belfast) and destroyers—off Norway‘s North Cape.

For the D-Day invasion of Normandy the Belfast was made headquarters ship of Bombardment Force E and was to support landings by British and Canadian forces in the Gold and Juno Beach sectors. Prime Minister Winston Churchill had announced his intention to go to sea with the fleet and witness the invasion from HMS Belfast. This was opposed by the Supreme Allied Commander, General . Eisenhower, and the First Sea Lord.  An intervention by the King eventually prevented Churchill from going.

 During her five weeks off Normandy the Belfast had fired 1,996 rounds from her six-inch guns

Almost the entire ship was accessible and many compartments has life size mannikins depicting ordinary ship board life: Here’s a sample.4030 Thames HMS Belfast Mess Cooks4020 Thames HMS Belfast Bakery4040 Thames HMS Belfast Sick Bay4070 Thames HMS Belfast Hammocks 4080 Thames HMS Belfast Mascot. 4090 Thames HMS Belfast Crew Qtrs.5010 Thames HMS Belfast WheelhouseGunsOne interesting feature suprised me.  On the bridge there was no Helm (steering wheel)  The Captain used instrument to determine the ships position and called his directional commands 6 decks below to where the helm was actually located. Here is the Bridge:

5020 Thames HMS Belfast Steering Control RoomHere is the helm – 6 decks below.

5010 Thames HMS Belfast GunsThat’s it for the Belfast.

One final note on the ships we toured: The ships built in 4 different centuries:

1.  The Mary Rose  Launched: July 1511 (The 16th Century)

2. The HMS Victory  Launched in 1765.  (The 17th Century)

3.. The HMS Warrior  Launched in 1871 (The 19th Century)

4. The HMS Belfast  Launched in 1938. (The 20th Century)

They were all different, but much of shipboard life remained the same!

5050 Last SupperAfter all this touring, we were tired so we took the Tube back to Archie’s home and he served me a last supper: A curry take-away from Waitrose. It was delicious!

5070 Icelandair 5080 En RouteWe had a quiet evening and early the next morning I left for Gatwick and on to home (via an evenig at Karen and George’s home in Boston).

5100 Home to WellsHere is our summer home and wife Mary Ann in Wells, Maine in the good old USA.

Finally, For those of you who are really interested in the Knights Templar.  Here is my version of their story (moved from Page 08):

The Knights Templar trace their origin back to shortly after the First Crusade. Around 1119, a French nobleman from the Champagne region, Hugues de Payens, collected eight of his knight relatives including Godfrey de Saint-Omer, and began the Order, their stated mission to protect pilgrims on their journey to visit the Holy Places.

In 1129 they were officially sanctioned by the church at the Council of Troyes, they became very well known in Europe. Their fundraising campaigns asked for donations of money, land, or noble-born sons to join the Order, with the implication that donations would help both to defend Jerusalem, and to ensure the charitable giver of a place in Heaven.

Donations to the Order were considerable. New members to the Order were also required to swear vows of obedience, chastity, piety and poverty, and hand over all of their goods to the monastic brotherhood. This could include land, horses and any other items of material wealth, including labor from serfs, and any interest in any businesses.

In 1139, more power was conferred upon the Order by Pope Innocent II, who issued the papal bullOmne Datum Optimum. It stated that the Knights Templar could pass freely through any border, owed no taxes, and were subject to no one’s authority except that of the Pope. It was a remarkable confirmation of the Templars and their mission. The Order grew rapidly throughout Western Europe, with chapters appearing in France, England, and Scotland, and then spreading to Spain and Portugal.

The Knights Templar were the elite fighting force of their day, Highly trained, well-equipped and highly motivated; one of the tenets of their religious order was that they were forbidden from retreating in battle, unless outnumbered three to one, and even then only by order of their commander, or if the Templar flag went down.

One of their key battles was in 1177: The Battle of Montgisard. The famous Muslim military leader Saladin was attempting to push toward Jerusalem from the south, with a force of 26,000 soldiers. Saladin’s army was spread too thin to adequately defend themselves, and he and his forces were forced to fight a losing battle as they retreated, ending up with only a tenth of their original number. The battle was not the final one with Saladin, but it bought a year of peace for the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and the victory became a heroic legend.

Though initially an Order of poor monks, the official papal sanction made the Knights Templar a charity across Europe. Further resources came in when members joined the Order, as they had to take oaths of poverty, and therefore often donated large amounts of their original cash or property to the Order. Additional revenue came from business dealings.

Since the monks themselves were sworn to poverty, but had the strength of a large and trusted international infrastructure behind them, nobles would occasionally use them as a kind of bank or power of attorney. If a noble wished to join the Crusades, this might entail an absence of years from their home. So some nobles would place all of their wealth and businesses under the control of Templars, to safeguard it for them until their return. The Order’s financial power became substantial, and the majority of the Order’s infrastructure was devoted not to combat, but to economic pursuits.

By 1150, the Order’s original mission of guarding pilgrims had changed into a mission of guarding their valuables through an innovative way of issuing letters of credit, an early precursor of modern banking. Pilgrims would visit a Templar house in their home country, depositing their deeds and valuables. The Templars would then give them a letter which would describe their holdings. While traveling, the pilgrims could present the letter to other Templars along the way, to “withdraw” funds from their accounts. This kept the pilgrims safe since they were not carrying valuables, and further increased the power of the Templars.

The long-famed military acumen of the Templars began to stumble in the 1180s. On July 4, 1187 came the disastrous Battle of the Horns of Hattin, a turning point in the Crusades. It again involved Saladin, who had been beaten back by the Templars in 1177 in the Battle of Montgisard. The Grand Master of the Templars was involved in this battle, (Gerard de Ridefort). He had just achieved that lifetime position a few years earlier. He was not known as a good military strategist, and made some deadly errors, such as venturing out with his force of 80 knights without adequate supplies or water, across the arid hill country of Galilee. The Templars were overcome by the heat within a day, and then surrounded and massacred by Saladin’s army. Within months Saladin captured Jerusalem.

In the early 1190s in a remarkably short and powerfully effective campaign Richard the Lionheart, King of England and leader of the Third Crusade, together with his allies the Templars, delivered a series of powerful blows against Saladin and recovered much of Christian territory.

The Templars  financial success attracted the concern of many other orders, with the two most powerful rivals being the Knights Hospitaller and the Teutonic Knights.  King Philip the King of France had other reasons to mistrust the Templars, as their organization had declared its desire to form its own state, similar to how the Teutonic Knights had founded Prussia. The Templars’ preferred location for this was in the Languedoc of southeastern France, but they had also made a plan for the island of Cyprus.

At dawn on Friday, October 13, 1307, scores of French Templars were simultaneously arrested by agents of King Philip, later to be tortured into admitting heresy and other sacrilegious offenses in the Order.

Despite the fact that the confessions had been produced under duress.  Along with more bullying from King Philip, Pope Clement issued the bull Pastoralis Praeeminentiae, which instructed all Christian monarchs in Europe to arrest all Templars and seize their assets. In 1312, after the Council of Vienne, and under extreme pressure from King Philip IV, Pope Clement V issued an edict officially dissolving the Order.

The Templars disbanded and much of their wealth and financial archives have  “disappeared”.  Many theories of what happened abound. Some even say the Masonic Order is a descendant of the Templars.. “Quien sabe?”

“Th Th Th That’s All Folks”  Any comments? I’m  prstevens13@gmail.com