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Daily Herald 8th October 1930
VIGIL IN SILENT STATION
From Our Special Correspondent, HUGH MARTIN
Victoria, Wednesday Morning.
An hour past midnight, cold and damp, and desperately depressing under the hard white street lamps round Victoria.
Yet the pavements are packed have been for the past hour. A silent, awe-struck crowd, uncannily patient.
Inside the station the high girders look strangely like those girders of an airship, and there is an even more profound silence around the yellow sanded roads where the Air Force tenders are drawn up in line.
The place is dim and gaunt, with the feeling of a mortuary in the air and the sense of crowds shut out somewhere. It is a very small companyjust a dozen or two men in blue uniforms with R101 in red on their caps, the men of the watch who were left behind and are still alive; a Guard of Honour from the Uxbridge depot, a group or two of alert flying officers in blue grey with swagger canes; some pressmen and railway officials.
One or two women also, the relatives of the dead, with Col. Brancker, Sir Seftons brother.
And then, walking up the middle of the sanded way, the Prime Minister, Miss Ishbel MacDonald by his side. He is looking haggard and pale, but perhaps this is the effect of the harsh station lamps. A long hush, like the hush in some cathedral before the funeral music begins. It is nearly half past one.
Suddenly we all bare our heads, for the train is slipping in, as silent as a ghost. You can see the laurel wreath on the front of the engine. The Prime Minister takes his place at the end of a long line of waiting tenders so that the whole length of the train is a vista fading away into the dimness of the London mist. Bearer parties advance and the purple lined doors swing open. The nest 20 minutes is unforgettable, a long pain as coffin with a Union Jack passes along the line of the vista.
The Prime Ministers hair gleams silver white in the hard lamps, but he stands upright. Ishbel MacDonald stands bravely, too and touches his hand. The anonymity of those endless coffins is terrible. At last the line of tenders has its full load, and moves slowly away. Out into the thronged streets and the drizzle and the wind. London seems to be holding its breath, just whispering. The whisper breaks into a low sob.
There must be tens of thousands waiting now in the dark and the drizzle on the short route from the station to the mortuarydown Buckingham Palace road, across Eccleston Bridge and so on to Vincent square, Horseferry road and the mortuary. They are simple folk who have put on mourning and stayed up late to say goodbye. They are the England of whom these men were the brave servants
From first to last there has been no sound except the sharp order, "Present arms!"
No pomp or sound of guns. Stark and simple, and,one might almost say, business-like, in its refusal to stress emotion, and therefore English to the core. Of all great public scenes I have witnessed this was the most strangely moving.
REUNION BEHIND DRAWN BLINDS
As the train drew up to the platform the three survivors, Leech, Blinks and Bell, remained in their coach, and then Mrs Leech and Mrs Bell entered the carriage. The blinds were drawn and one could only guess at the happy reunion which was taking place. When the cortge had formed its entire length, the men and two women left the train and were introduced to Mr Ramsay MacDonald. Afterwards they left by road for Cardington.
Daily Herald 8th October 1930
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