Thursday, May 30, 2013

St. Clements Danes, Central Church of the RAF

Driving around London there comes a point where in the middle of the road you can find a number of buildings. Most of the time they are churches, showing that there was a different city plan in the past. One of these buildings is St. Clements Danes, which is the central church of the RAF. Due to its location, in the centre of the British capital, a number of incendiary bombs fell onto St. Clement Danes on the last day of the Blitz in 1941. The only thing left standing were the outer walls and the only bell to survive was the one cast in the year of the Spanish Armada, the Sanctus Bell (1588).

In 1956 the Royal Air Force launched a national appeal to rebuild the church as the Central Church of the Royal Air Force to serve as a perpetual shrine of Remembrance. The restored Stuart of arms above the chancel arch reads: “Built by Christopher Wren 1681. Destroyed by the thunderbolts of air warfare 1941. Restored by the Royal Air Force 1958”.

Over 800 Welsh Slate Badges are on the floor of St. Clement Danes, commemorating RAF Stations, Squadrons and Units. They are the most prominent memorial kept clear in the wide centre aisle thanks to the telescopic pews. Queens Colours and Standards hang above in the gallery. Victoria Cross, George Cross and Albert Cross recipients are remembered on the walls either side of the altar. Everywhere you turn the bravery and sacrifices made by the British servicemen and women are preserved for future generations.

St. Clement Danes is home to the Books of Remembrance. The Books hold over 125.000 names of every member of the Royal Air Force who lost their life on active service. Book I commemorates balloonists who served with the Royal Engineers, members of the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps and RAF personnel up to the outbreak of the Second World War. Books II-IX commemorate all those who died during the Second World War, including the Allied Forces. Book X commemorates those who died from VJ Day 1945 to the present day. 

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