Today (January 9) in London History

For the January 9th Today in London History podcast we drop in on the State Banquet that took place at St. James’ Palace just 24 hours after “the day they closed the door that never closed” (the subject of yesterday’s podcast). There’s a poignance in the transition from the January 8th, 1946 event (“the day they closed the doors that never closed”) to the event that took place just 24 hours later, on January 9th, 1946 – the aforementioned State Banquet at St. James’s Palace, the subject of today’s, January 9th’s, podcast.

TRANSCRIPT

London calling.

Short one, today.

Short but heartfelt. And important. 

And there’s something too about the transition between yesterday’s Day in London History – January 8th, 1946. And today’s, just a day later – January 9th, 1946.

Yesterday’s was the end of something. The closing of the door that never closed. The end of Rainbow Corner, the fabled American Red Cross Club at Piccadilly Circus.

Today’s – a day later – January 9th, 1946 – is, the world hopes, the beginning of something. 

Something that, if it succeeds, will mean there’ll never be a need again for an operation like Rainbow Corner. 

We’ve moved just a couple of hundred yards southwest of those closed doors at Rainbow Corner. A couple of hundred yards southwest of Piccadilly Circus.

And all of this is another reminder of that fundamental truth about London – history-wise, London isn’t on the sidelines. London makes history. London is where history happens. 

So where are we? We’re at a state banquet at St. James’s Palace. 

Gathered there – breaking bread together – are the delegates to the General Assembly of the United Nations. In a sense St. James’s Palace is the delivery room for the United Nations. Because just hours later – tomorrow, January 10th, 1946 – the first-ever meeting of the U.N. General Assembly will take place just across the park – just across St. James’s Park – from St. James’s Palace. It’ll take place at Methodist Central Hall, just over the way from Westminster Abbey and the Mother of Parliaments, the Palace of Westminster.

Hosting our banquet tonight at St. James’ Palace is King George VI. He’s joined by nearly all the members of the British Cabinet, including Sir John Anderson, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Committee. Sir John Anderson is the very embodiment of a past and future transition. Past because he was the Home Secretary during the War. He gave his name to the eponymous Anderson Shelters, the holes in the ground in their gardens where so many Londoners took refuge from the bombs the Luftwaffe rained down on London. That was, in 1946, an immediate past – a past everybody wanted to be forever past. And the Atomic Energy Committee, well, it pointed to the future. A hopeful future. But also a potentially terrible future.

But really we’re stopping here for the essence of the ten-minute speech King George VI made to those U.N. delegates. His words could not have been better chosen. 

Wearing the uniform of an Admiral of the Fleet, His Majesty said, “it gives me particular pleasure that the first meeting of this great Assembly should be held in London. Our ancient capital, though almost every home in it bears the scars of war, remains a worthy setting for the momentous tasks with which you are entrusted. In the long course of our history no more important meeting has ever taken place within its boundaries.”

Spot on. Amen.

And that’s why this State Banquet has pride of place on this day in London History.

Good night from London. And God Speed peacemakers, everywhere, in their momentous tasks.

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