St Clement Danes: The RAF Church

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.

Hugh Dowding Statue

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!

St Clements Door

The front door of St Clement Danes RAF Church; which was open to visitors

RAF detail St Clements

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.

St Clements Ceiling

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.

Memorial Wreath St Clements

A memorial wreath acknowledges “the debt we owe”

VC Recipients St Clements

List of Victoria Cross recipients from the RFC, RNAS, and RAF

Mynarski St Clements

The name of Andrew Mynarski, a Canadian pilot officer who was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously

St Clements Window

The magnificent window behind the altar of St Clement Danes

Mossie Memorial St Clements

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!

St Clements exterior

The tower of St Clement Danes rises up from the bustling City roads

St Clements Verse

A Bible verse carved onto the exterior of the church

 

 

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11 thoughts on “St Clement Danes: The RAF Church

  1. It is hard to enter such places without being incredibly and indelibly touched by the sacrifices of so many. I have not been to the St. Clement Danes, but I imagine being there would elicit the same emotions I felt in the American Chapel at St. Pauls.

  2. This is my favourite church in London, because of the RAF affiliation. I remember first going there with my grandfather and hims showing me the 488(NZ) Squadron crest on the floor. I went back there earlier this year to see it again, which brought back some great memories of my grandpa! Thanks for posting this – a great read. Adam

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