|Cathedral closed until further notice|
'Defending freedom from the fierce assault of tyranny' - St Paul's Collections focus on the Americans who fought in D-Day
06 June 2014
The rich and varied Collections of St Paul's Cathedral contain documents and artefacts dating back
centuries as well as right up to the present day.
Numerous records and items remember heroes of the British nation, Empire and Commonwealth – most prominently shown in the tombs and memorials to great men and women spread throughout the Cathedral.
But seven decades ago, a national connection was made which remains as strong to this day – on the back of momentous campaigns such as D-Day –
a special friendship with the United States of America which has seen many unique and valuable items come to St Paul's.
In an archive room high above the Dean's Aisle, sit four large watercolour and ink maps, one of which shows the formation of American troops on D-Day.
Painted by Ernest Clegg, who had served as a Major in the British Army in WW1 before emigrating to America, the detailed map shows the English towns and regions in which each US regiment was stationed and even the sea routes the American troops took the five famous Normandy beaches – Utah, Gold, Omaha, Juno and Sword.
VIEW AND DOWNLOAD A HI-RESOLUTION IMAGE OF THE MAP
However, the most striking connection between St Paul's and the people of the United States can be found beyond the High Altar at the very east end of the Cathedral, in the American Memorial Chapel - a space rebuilt after being destroyed in the Blitz and dedicated in its entirety to the American dead of the Second World War.
At the heart of the chapel sits a huge, 500-page, leather-bound book; a roll of honour to the 28,000 Americans - from Aaberg to Zingale - stationed in the UK who gave their lives throughout the War. The book opens: "Defending freedom from the fierce assault of tyranny they shared the honor and the sacrifice. Though they died before the dawn of victory their names and deed will long be remembered where ever free men live.”
Thousands of the men named in the roll of honour died on the Normandy beaches on D-Day, as well as in training operations in the lead up to the campaign and in the subsequent battles on the European mainland, right up until the day on which the Allies celebrated Victory in Europe.
The book was unveiled in 1958 at a service to dedicate the Chapel, attended by The Queen and American Vice President, Richard M Nixon.
A year later, President Dwight D Eisenhower visited the Chapel and the roll of honour. Words in the book written by the President, who as a
solider commanded the Allied troops on D-Day, read: "Each name inscribed in this book is a story of personal tragedy and a grieving family; a
story repeated endlessly in white crosses girdling the globe. The Americans, whose names here appear, were part of the price that free men have
been forced a second time to pay in this century to defend human liberty and rights. Fittingly, this roll of honor has been enshrined by the
Mother Country of all English-speaking democracies in this special chapel of St Paul’s, once a target of barbaric attack. Here, we and all who
shall hereafter live in freedom will be reminded that to these men and their comrades of all the Allies we owe a debt to be paid with grateful
remembrance of their sacrifice and with the high resolve that the cause for which they died shall live eternally.”
The chapel itself is truly a place for all Americans. The three stained-glass windows contain the state symbols of every American state. The wood carvings contain the birds, plants and flowers of America and hidden away in one panel are a space rocket and stars – a nod to the space programme that was being developed at the time the Chapel was completed.