Raoul Wallenberg

One of the bonuses of walking around London as I do quite often is that you often come across places and events you were unaware of, or at least that let you see them in a different way.

© 2004, Peter Marshall
Horsemens’ Sunday, 2004

In September 2004, I’d gone to Hyde Park Crescent to take pictures of ‘Horsemen’s Sunday‘, an event I’d read about but never seen, and where most of the men apart from the vicar turned out to be women or children. I was staggered to find that the Hyde Park Pony Club had so many members, but it was an event that once seen I’ve not felt the need to revisit – and I think Thelwell would have done it more justice. I find horses tricky to photograph and I think they look at their best from a distance, like bicycles they don’t respond too well to my usual ultra-wide approach, though the 12-24mm Sigma I was using then on an DX camera was rather less extreme than either the 10.5mm DX semi fisheye or the 16-35mm FX I now prefer.

London when my father was a boy a hundred years ago was still a largely horse-powered city – and he helped his father making horse-drawn carts, later graduating after a period working in munitions and a trip to France patching up biplanes for the Royal Flying Corps (and on to Germany in the RAF to fraternize with the Fräuleins returned to find the internal combustion engine had taken over and for a while he built wooden fire engines and charabancs. London’s pollution became rather less obvious (the horses mainly moved out to the Home Counties as expensive toys for the wealthier commuters and their families) and needed much less shovelling but rather than being good for the roses and veg now poisoned us, first mainly with lead, but now with nitrogen oxides and respirable suspended particles. I’m always a little worried by the abbreviation PM, as in PM10 or PM2.5, because those letters are my initials. Of course the also stand for Prime Minister, and I could certainly do a better job than the present incumbent, though I’ve no wish to volunteer.

But, back to real life, as I wandered away from the wealthy horse riders of London, I came across another event taking place a short distance away, a group of people standing around a piece of sculpture that had not been there the last time I’d wandered down Great Cumberland Place perhaps ten years earlier, and I stopped to investigate and take a few pictures, and a couple of them ended up in My London Diary too.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Chanting a Psalm of Thanksgiving for the life of Raoul Wallenberg, 2012

But this year I went to the same place on purpose, and did I think a little better with the pictures of the Raoul Wallenberg 100th Anniversary.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
After the ceremony I was pleased to drink a toast to a great man too.

It was commemorating one of the great heroes of the twentieth century, a man who put his own life at risk by going to Budapest as a Swedish diplomat during the Nazi occupation to issue the Jewish population there with false ‘protective passports’ which identified them as Swedish subjects awaiting repatriation saved probably 100,000 from the death camps. (Surprisingly he survived the Nazis only to be imprisoned and killed by the Russians – and a new inquiry into the date and manner of his death was announced by Sweden recently.)  The anniversary wasn’t entirely unnoticed in the media, with similar events taking place elsewhere around the world, but I think I was the only professional photographer and journalist present at the London event.

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