On a beautiful, bright day in early June this year, my dad and I went for a walk round the City of London. Actually, our destination was a specific pub for lunch- but, though we were hungry, we couldn’t help but stop when we came across the church of St Clement Danes. Although I knew the song “Oranges and Lemons”, which speaks of St Clement’s, and I’d been to the Strand/Fleet Street area before, I was totally oblivious to the church’s existence there. I also had no idea of St Clement’s association with the RAF.
Crossing the street in front of St Clement’s, I thought that we were simply approaching another pleasant-looking church- there are a lot of old churches in London! The first thing that indicated the contrary was a prominent statue of Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding. Dowding was an instrumental force in RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain, contributing much to the defence of Britain.
Statue of air chief marshal Dowding in front of RAF St. Clement Danes
This statue made me take a closer look at the church, which turned out to be the central church of the RAF! This was a delightful revelation to me, since I love old buildings, churches, and the RAF!
The front door of St Clement Danes RAF Church; which was open to visitors
A wrought iron sign professing the church’s RAF affiliation. Damage suffered by the church building in WWII was repaired thanks to the efforts of the RAF
We went into the church, which was nearly empty. Inside the door were shelves full of RAF publications; newspapers and brochures and the like, and all complimentary. I took several, but couldn’t be distracted for long from the magnificent sanctuary. It was breathtaking, and had such a tranquil and dignified feeling to it.
The airy yet ornate interior of the church
RAF touches and demonstrations of remembrance were everywhere, which was moving. The floor was embellished with RAF plaques, and there were flags hung round the whole sanctuary. It was a fitting combination of both Christian and military reverence. There were also numerous memorial inscriptions on the walls or pews; and although June is far from Remembrance/Armistice Day, wreaths of poppies were often placed beneath these inscriptions.
A memorial wreath acknowledges “the debt we owe”
List of Victoria Cross recipients from the RFC, RNAS, and RAF
The name of Andrew Mynarski, a Canadian pilot officer who was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously
The magnificent window behind the altar of St Clement Danes
A touching dedication to de Havilland Mosquito crews
This peaceful church was the perfect place to pause for awhile, far removed from the everlasting busyness of Fleet Street and the Strand. I think it’s a very special place, because it is not only God’s house but it’s also a place of remembrance. St Clement Danes must be one of London’s most unusual churches, and I know that I won’t pass up the opportunity of visiting it again!
The tower of St Clement Danes rises up from the bustling City roads
A Bible verse carved onto the exterior of the church