St Clemens Danes Church is a church on the Strand, close to King’s College, so we went to see it, as it was open when we passed on our way to the university. The church has a 1000 year history. This building was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. In front is a statue of Sir Arthur Harris, a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps during the WWI, and an officer in RAF from 1918 to 1946. It was interesting to read about him on english-heritage, he was involved in bombing cities to stop Germany’s war machine, but with low precision, people died. I think the controversy ignores that the Germans were bombing civilians everywhere, as the Holocaust was not widely known about at that point. As English Heritage said in their piece: ‘modern judgement is made difficult by our increasing distance from wartime conditions and from the people who endured them’.
The church is linked to the Royal Air Force. It offers services of marriage, baptisms, and funeral serves.
The church has a long history though. As the name suggests, it was established by the Danes in the 9th century. The church they were given was dedicated to St Clement, the patron saint of mariners. William the Conqueror built a new building in the 11th century. It was not destroyed in the Great Fire of London of 1666, but the church was in a bad shape. So a new building, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, was needed. The tower’s steeple was added by James Gibb in 1719.
While it escaped the Great Fire, it didn’t escape the German bombs. On the night of 10 May 1941 the church received a direct hit from an incendiary bomb and this picture shows the aftermath.
For a decade the church remained as it was. It was reconstructed and, on the 19th of October 1958, St Clement Danes was re-consecrated in the presence on Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth as the Central church of the Royal Air Force.
Books of Remembrance honour the military service of all RAF men and women who have died whilst serving. There is another book that remembers ex-serving members who have passed since leaving the Royal Air Force, which is lovely.
These are Unit badges inlaid into the floor of the church, over 1000. All are made from Welsh slate and there are units that were part of the RAF or still are.
The church is free to visit, so well worth stopping by. There are dozens of other stunning places to see nearby, including the first Twinning shop (post from 2016) and the Royal Courts of Justice.
St Clemens Danes Church’s address is Central Church of the RAF, Strand, London, WC2R 1DH.