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What a privilege it was for me to attend this commemoration, all the way from Australia; along with Curly’s grandchildren, Jessica and Alex, who live in London.
The weather was truly English that night: ‘It rained...!'
The Church is located opposite the Royal Courts of Justice, The Temple and Fleet Street, close to Australia House. Placed on an island in the middle of The Strand, an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity prevails; quite set apart from the city noise and the traffic outside.
For over 1,000 years a Church has stood on this spot. On 10 May 1941, incendiary bombs gutted the building, leaving only walls and tower standing. In 1953 the church was handed into the keeping of the Air Council and re-consecrated (in 1958) as the perpetual Shrine of Remembrance to those of the Allied Air Forces who gave their lives during the Second World War. St Clement Danes is the spiritual heart of the Royal Air Force and the Commonwealth Air Forces.
[The original concept to restore this ruined church as an Air Force memorial was devised by an ex-3 Squadron WW1 officer, Henry Wrigley.]
Inlaid into the white Portland Stone floor are the crests of the RAF, surrounded by the crests of Commonwealth Air Forces; Australia, Canada, Ceylon, India, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, Rhodesia and South Africa; worked in brass, copper, white bronze and marble.
Until March 2009, only two RAAF WW2 crests had been dedicated [No.10 SQN and No.461 SQN, both of whom flew in the Battle of the Atlantic with Coastal Command]. However, ten more squadron Crests have now joined those [No.3 RAAF, 450, 451, 452, 454, 457, 458, 459, 462, 464 and 466], in recognition of all those who served in peace and war.
The service was attended by 175 veterans and guests.
Central Figure: Jack Doyle, DSO, DFC and Bar at the Ceremony.
(Jack was a Flight Leader and Acting CO of 3 Squadron and later Commanding Officer of 450 Squadron.)
After the service, morning tea was in the 'Downer Room' in the Australian High Commission, across the road. Everyone, young and old, enjoyed the time to reflect. And for some it was a time to meet up again with British mates that served in integrated squadrons.
Jessica, David and myself were in awe of the stories that were told and the high regard for our veterans. To sit on the floor near the end of the day and listen to a British veteran speak about the three photo albums, that he had only recently let his family know about, was really moving. - His sons were present, with one son having flown-in from Saudi Arabia just for the dedication.
Visits to Significant Air Force Sites:
Friday, 27th March 2009.
A day tour at the RAF Museum with over 100 aircraft in five buildings, being able to examine aircraft such as the Spitfire, Kittyhawk, Hurricane, Lancaster bomber and more, at close quarters.
Evening Dinner at the RAF Club, Piccadilly, London; once again being able to spend time chatting with veterans or their family members about their time serving with the different squadrons.
- Off again, this time Biggin Hill Airfield. It was first used as an aerodrome in 1917 when fighters were based there in an attempt to intercept Zeppelin and bomber raids on London during World War I. After the Armistice it remained in military hands and RAF Biggin Hill was expanded during the 1930s. Many of the brick buildings on the RAF site (West Camp) on the Westerham Road date from this time, including the Barrack Blocks (1932), Officer’s Mess (1934) and the Station HQ.
Work to “harden” the airfield against enemy attack was still underway after the outbreak of World War II in 1939. At that time, today’s main north/south runway did not exist (completed 1942), but two short concrete runways were completed in March 1940. By the time of Battle of Britain, RAF Biggin Hill was an important “Sector” station with two squadrons of Hurricanes or Spitfires based there. It also housed the “Section C” operations room, directing satellite airfields such as Gravesend. As such, it was high on the list of the German High Command's targets.
We visited St George’s Royal Air Force Chapel, Biggin Hill, built in 1951 (replacing the first station church made in 1943 from three wartime huts). The church and hall have exceptionally fine stained-glass windows, designed by Hugh Easton, as well as some very interesting artefacts.
Then lunch, which was at the local drinking-hole for the ground crew. After lunch, a walk on part of the airfield, to see a few original wooden huts and shelters as reminders of yesteryear; it was very moving.
- Once again saw us back at St Clement Danes, for the Service to commemorate the Formation of the Royal Air Force.
I do appreciate the honour of representing the Association at the 3 Squadron plaque dedication and associated functions. - Vicki.
this page have been sourced from the
excellent 450 Sqn
slideshow of the church service available on:
3 Squadron Stories
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