The Church of St Katherine, Westway, cuts a dark and foreboding silhouette as one drives along the A40. Many assume the Church to be disused, or abandoned, and it’s stark 1950s concrete prefab design, now cracked, darkened, and ravaged by acid rain, does nothing to disabuse the casual motorist that it is not; nor does it hint of the dynamic Rev. Jim Tate, his wife Lesley, and the wonderful congregation that can often be found within.
Those that look upon the Church often wonder “Why on earth would anyone design such an ugly Cross.” To which the reply is “the architect didn’t”. The ‘Cross’ is not a cross in the strictest sense, but a relic from the broken and twisted steel superstructure that jutted defiantly out of the shattered and burnt remains of St Catherine Coleman after it, and houses on The Westway, The Curve, and Hemlock Road, were destroyed by enemy action on the night of the 12 th of October 1940.
Please spare a thought for Mrs Emily Tanner and her son Raymond, of No 104 The Westway, Mrs Grace Hoggart and her daughter Ellen, of No 8 Shepherds Bush Road, and Charles Hallpike and his sister Lucy, of No 4 Shepherds Bush Green, who were all killed as they slept; for Mr Alfred Baker, 24 The Curve, and Mr Arthur Underhill, 48 Norland Road, who died as they were taken to Hammersmith Hospital; and for Mr John Bartlett, of No 47 Bloemfontein Road, who passed away the following day.
These include Mary Barrett, Michael Dollymore, Ernest Finch, Ethel Furnish, Arthur Green, Jean Hillier, Robert Hillier, Alfred Kimpton, Albert Matthews, Edward Newman, William Orridge, William Percy, Charles Rogers, William Smith, Claude Sparkes, Gladys Sparkes, Stanley Warne, and Charles Wood.
Imagine the scene, if you can. The bravery of the ARP, Civil Defence Volunteers, police, firemen, and residents excavating the smashed wreckage, alert for the cry of the wounded and dying, against the deafening sound of the Anti-Aircraft Guns of Ravenscourt Park engaging enemy aircraft over head. I also reflect upon the resolve of the London Auxiliary Ambulance Drivers, my great aunt Winifred Higton included, National Emergency Health Service, and the gallantry of the RAF.
When the Church of St Katherine, Westway, was finally built in 1959 it did not win any plaudits – unlike the Church that preceded it – however Mr J R Atkinson, the son of the architect of the first church, should perhaps be forgiven for the brutal post-modern design. It is not merely a Church, but a monument to all those killed in the Blitz, the horror and brutality of war, and the bravery of local residents from all walks of life, of which Hammersmith can be proud.
N.B. The Rev. Jim Tate would be grateful for help to conserve the Cross, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like get involved.
As we approach Remembrance Sunday and the 11th November I am increasingly saddened by the number of people I see around and about not wearing Poppies. This includes on television and in many public environments.
For me the wearing of a poppy is a sign of remembrance for the hundreds of thousands of British and Commonwealth service men and women who have laid down their lives for their country or who have been wounded and harmed fighting for us. I do not want to establish a ‘poppy police’ in any way but I do want to see poppies extensively warn as an act of free will, of respect, honor and of remembrance.
Wearing a poppy does not glorify war as some claim, it is in fact exactly the opposite. Remembering the fallen and the wounded is in many ways the best antidote to the glorification of war as it holds true the stark reality and the human cost of conflict.
What ever your perspective on war one thing we should never do is judge the people who fought and died for us. Members of our armed forces both current and past carry out the will of our elected representatives. They have little choice in what they do and certainly they do not get to choose which wars to fight and die in.
There is still a debate raging over the ‘just’ cause of the First World War and the ‘dangers’ of commemorating this conflict. To those who perpetuate this argument I say again that the act of Remembrance is all about honoring our fallen not the merits of any particular conflict.
Both the First and Second World Wars resulted in huge numbers of British and Commonwealth casualties, approximately 1,700,000 dead with many wounded and permanently scarred. These numbers are so vast it is hard to comprehend. There are also the numerous conflicts we have sent our service personnel to fight in since May 1945 with all the resultant casualties including the recent and ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We must never forget that these ‘numbers’ represent ordinary men and women, brothers, fathers, sisters, daughters and sons. The loss for their families was and is heart breaking and devastating as it should be for all of us.I for one will be eternally grateful for their sacrifice and I would argue that we as a nation, united, should be too.
I have done my best to impart this to my three young children. My eldest daughter (now 10) wears my late father’s World War 2 campaign medals on Remembrance Sunday to the wreath laying at our local war memorial. She has done so since she was 5. I want all my children and the children of our nation irrespective of their background to grow up remembering, an ambition I am struggling to see fulfilled.
By all means question the rights and wrongs of armed conflict: this is a hard won privilege that we take all too easily for granted living in a thriving democracy. Feel free to criticise those politicians who through the ages have committed our soldiers, sailors and airmen into harm’s way. However please, please do not forget or question the fallen or their sacrifice and always wear your poppy with pride.