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6 November 2017
St Clement Danes, Central Church of the Royal Air Force, London

St Clement Danes Church, London, is located on an 'island' in the Strand, opposite Australia House and the Royal Courts of Justice. It is a place of regular worship, and is open for visitors. It is a living Memorial to those who died while serving in the Royal Air Force, and around the walls are ten Memorial Books recording over 150,000 names. Volume I covers from 1915 to September 1939; Volumes II to IX from September 1939 to August 1945; Volume X from August 1945 to 31 March 2013; and Volume XI from 1 April 2013. Another book records the names of 16,000 United States Air Force personnel who lost their lives in WW2 while based in the UK. Set into the floor are almost 900 badges made of Welsh slate, which commemorate Air Force stations, squadrons and units. The badges of RAF Commands are fitted to pillars inside the church, and Queen's Colours and Standards hang above in the gallery. Victoria Cross, George Cross, and Albert Cross recipients are remembered on the walls on either side of the alter. A Rosette of Commonwealth Air Force badges is located in the floor at the rear of the church just in from the entrance foyer. Commemorative items are in display cabinets in the entrance foyer, where steps lead downstairs to the Crypt. Outside the church are statues of Dr Samuel Johnson, Lord Dowding, and Sir Arthur Harris.

In the 9th Century, the church of St Clement was taken over by Danish settlers and their English wives, and the church became known as "St-Clement-of-the-Danes". Although not reached by the Great Fire of London in 1666, it was in poor condition, so between 1680 and 1682, St Clement Danes was rebuilt by Christopher Wren. In 1719, James Gibb added the steeple. On 10 May 1941, the church was hit by an incendiary bomb, leaving only the outer walls, and the steeple with one bell. It remained in this state for over 10 years. After WW2, the Diocese of London agreed with the suggestion that the RAF restore and rebuild a church for its own use. Wren's original design was followed closely by the Architect Anthony Lloyd, and, after a world-wide appeal in 1956, various items were gifted to the Church by other Air Forces. In 1958, after restoration was complete, St Clement Danes was re-Consecrated as the Central Church of the Royal Air Force.

"And so it was that St Clement Danes, destroyed by the actions of one air force was given into the care of another."

The information presented here was sourced from the Tourist Guide available at the Church, and from signs located within the Church. The following photos were taken by this website's Owner/Author during a visit to St Clement Danes on Saturday 28 April 2012. Transcriptions are included where relevant. Please refer also to www.raf.mod.uk/stclementdanes for further information. My thanks are extended to St Clement Danes staff who kindly allowed access to the Books of Remembrance, so that photos could be taken of the names of the crew of Halifax NA240 Z5-V, 462 Squadron RAAF.

External views of St Clement Danes Church;
Internal views of the Church;
The Crypt;
Badges of 462 Squadron RAAF, and RAF Station Lichfield (27 OTU), made of Welsh slate;
Books of Remembrance, & pages with the names of the crew of Halifax NA240 Z5-V, 462 Sqdn RAAF (indicated by blue arrows).

 

St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
St Clement Danes Church and steeple.

 

Blue Cross at entrance to St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
Blue cross of RAF St Clement Danes, beside the entrance.

 

Statue of Sir Arthur Harris outside St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
Sir Arthur Harris, Marshall of the Royal Air Force, and Commander in Chief, Bomber Command, 1942-1945.
A plaque on one side reads ....
IN MEMORY OF A GREAT COMMANDER AND
OF THE BRAVE CREWS OF BOMBER COMMAND,
MORE THAN 55,000 OF WHOM LOST THEIR
LIVES IN THE CAUSE OF FREEDOM.
THE NATION OWES THEM ALL AN
IMMENSE DEBT.


WW2 damage to the rear external wall of St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
Rear external wall of Church showing damage from WW2 bombing.

 

 

 

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Internal view of St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
Internal view towards Altar, slate badges in floor, Stuart Coat of Arms above, pulpit & steps to left before Altar, lectern to right before Altar.

Stained glass window in St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
Stained glass window above & behind the Altar.

 

Stuart Coat of Arms at St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
Restored Stuart Coat of Arms above the chancel arch, with inscription in latin (green panel) which translates as "Built by Christopher Wren 1682. Destroyed by thunderbolts of air warfare 1941. Restored by the Royal Air Force 1958."

 

Rosette of the Commonwealth Air Force badges at St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
The 'Rosette' of the Commonwealth Air Force badges, set into the floor inside the entrance in the main part of the church.
Royal Canadian Air Force at 11 o'clock; Royal Australian Air Force at 1 o'clock, Royal New Zealand Air Force at 3 o'clock.


 

Lectern donated by RAAF to St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
The lectern (side view) was a gift from the Royal Australian Air Force, and from here, passages are read from the Bible during services.

Lectern & pulpit at St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
The RAAF lectern (centre front), looking towards the pulpit (right rear), with slate badges in the floor, and lighted alcoves with Books of Remembrance beyond the far pews. The pulpit had been stored for safe-keeping in St Paul's Cathedral during the London blitz.

 

 

Church organ donated by the USAF to St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
Internal view looking back towards the church entrance, showing the organ above, which was a gift from the United States Air Force; flags in the gallery; lighted badges of the various RAF Commands on pillars (left & right). The side of the pulpit is front right of the photo (closest).

Badge of Coastal Command on pillar at St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
Badge attached to one of the church pillars:
COASTAL COMMAND, ROYAL AIR FORCE
CONSTANT ENDEAVOUR
(Photo included to commemorate 461 Sqdn RAAF, Coastal Command; see page for R.B.Hetherington, who served with 461 Squadron at Pembroke Dock.)
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The Crypt at St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
The Crypt, as viewed from the entrance. The font was a gift from the Royal Norwegian Air Force. At the time these photos were taken (April 2012), there was an exhibit commemorating Bomber Command.

The plaque in the following photo may be seen on the wall, centre left, in the photo above.

Memorial plaque in the Crypt of St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
Plaque in the Crypt .... (transcription)

On the 21st June 1981 this plaque was dedicated to the countless brave men and women of enemy occupied countries who during World War 2 (1939-1945) without thought of danger to themselves helped 2803 airmen of the Royal Air Force and Commonwealth air forces to escape and return to this country and to continue the struggle for freedom. Many paid with their lives, many more endured the degradation of concentration camps. Their names are remembered in equal honour with those who were spared to fight a longer battle. To mark its debt of gratitude the Royal Air Force Escaping Society erected this memorial as a lasting tribute and also to serve as an inspiration to future generations.

The RAF Escaping Society (emblem shown in the plaque) no longer exists, but was merged into a tri-service association, the Escape Lines Memorial Society (ELMS) whose members attend St Clement Danes annually for an act of remembrance. My thanks go to Revd. Davis Osborn, RAF Resident Chaplain, St Clement Danes Church, for the above transcription and information.
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Slate badge of 462 Squadron RAAF, set in the floor at St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
Welsh slate Badge of
462 SQUADRON
ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE
COMPETENCE AND PERSEVERANCE
(Photos were also taken of the following RAAF Squadron badges: Sqdns 2, 3, 450 to 460 inclusive, 463, 464, 466, 467; the 461 Sqdn badge was missed. If you have an interest on one of those Squadrons, please contact to request a copy.)

 

Slate badge of RAF Station Lichfield, set in the floor at St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
Welsh slate Badge of
ROYAL AIR FORCE STATION
LICHFIELD
(Location of 27 Operational Training Unit, where many RAAF aircrew trained, including the 6 RAAF crew members of Halifax NA240 Z5-V, 462 Sqdn RAAF.)
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Book of Remembrance VII, at St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
Book of Remembrance VII, one of 8 books recording the names of those who lost their lives whilst serving in the Royal Air Force from September 1939 to August 1945. Books II to V are in alcoves on the left side of the church, and books VI to IX are on the right. Each book is behind a protective screen, but open pages allow viewing of names.

 

Book of Remembrance VIII, at St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
Book of Remembrance VIII (J.M.Tait, R.R.Taylor, as below)
THE BOOK OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE
VOLUME VIII S-T

Introduction page of Book of Remembrance VIII, at St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
Book of Remembrance ... (quote)
3RD SEPTEMBER 1939 TO
15TH AUGUST 1945

THIS VOLUME
COMMEMORATES MEN AND WOMEN OF THE
COMMONWEALTH AND EMPIRE AND OF
OTHER NATIONS WHO, BETWEEN
3RD SEPTEMBER 1939 &
15TH AUGUST 1945,
LOST THEIR LIVES WHILE SERVING WITH
THE ROYAL AIR FORCE
ITS RESERVES OR AUXILIARIES, OR IN
COMMONWEALTH OR ALLIED UNITS UNDER
ROYAL AIR FORCE COMMAND.

 

Entry for Alfred Desmond John Ball in Book of Remembrance, at St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
Book of Remembrance
Alfred Desmond John Ball
(Flying Officer, 427182 RAAF, Pilot, Halifax NA240 Z5-V, 462 Sqdn)

Entry for Frederick Brookes in Book of Remembrance, at St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
Book of Remembrance
Frederick Brookes
(Sergeant, 546437 RAF, Flight Engineeer, Halifax NA240 Z5-V, 462 Sqdn)

 

Entry for Neil Vernon Evans in Book of Remembrance, at St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
Book of Remembrance
Neil Vernon Evans
(Flight Sergeant, 436113 RAAF, Navigator, Halifax NA240 Z5-V, 462 Sqdn)

 

Entry for Murray Frank in Book of Remembrance, at St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
Book of Remembrance
Murray Frank
(Flying Officer, 409532 RAAF, Bomb Aimer, Halifax NA240 Z5-V, 462 Sqdn)

 

Entry for John Heggarty in Book of Remembrance, at St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
Book of Remembrance
John Heggarty
(Flying Officer, 179888 RAFVR, Special Duties, Halifax NA240 Z5-V, 462 Sqdn)

 

Entry for John Mickle Tait in Book of Remembrance, at St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
Book of Remembrance
John Mickle Tait
(Flight Sergeant, 430788 RAAF, Mid-Upper Gunner, Halifax NA240 Z5-V, 462 Sqdn)

Entry for Ronald Reginald Taylor in Book of Remembrance, at St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF, London
Book of Remembrance
Ronald Reginald Taylor
(Warrant Officer, 432346 RAAF, Wireless Operator, Halifax NA240 Z5-V, 462 Sqdn)

 

Maxwell James Hibberd, Flight Sergeant, 435342 RAAF, Rear Gunner, Halifax NA240 Z5-V, 462 Sqdn, was the sole survivor of the crew.

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