Air Forces Memorial


No matter what you think about the politics of conflict, today is a day to remember those who have died in war.  I want to share some images of one of my local war memorials, the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede.


Perched high on a hill above the water meadows of Runnymede, the memorial is a peaceful building of cool stone, echo and shadow.  


Inside are commemorated over 20,000 airmen lost during World War Two but for whom there is no known grave. The names of those killed seem to run on as endlessly as the memorial’s labyrinthine corridors.


Flags in the roof remind us that the war dead came from all nationalities.


So many young men were lost, literally.  With no body found, often the name carved on the wall is all that family have to mark their loved one.  Countless small tokens left in nooks around the walls show that even all these years later, individuals are still remembered and mourned.


The Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede is a beautiful place, yes, but also a sobering one.  It was somewhere I was pleased to take my teenage son whose idea of conflict is influenced by computer games and adventure movies.  As we walked the corridors and porticoes, he became quiet and thoughtful.  As did we all.

Jersey’s Occupation Relics

Jersey WW2

Jersey’s history is written across the island, from a Neolithic passage grave (of which, more another day) to magnificent Medieval and Tudor castles. A more recent episode in Jersey’s history is also etched on the landscape; during World War 2, the Channel Islands were occupied by the German army.


This one’s now a holiday rental

The islands were occupied on 1st July 1940 and were liberated more than five years later, on 9th July 1945. During the occupation, extensive defences were built all over Jersey, even on top of the Tudor Elizabeth Castle.

German pillbox on top of tudor castle

An incongruous site

Numerous pillboxes, batteries and other defences were constructed, using slave labour from the defeated peoples of Europe. At La Hougue Bie, a moving display tells their story. The defences included three enormous observation towers.

WW2 tower Jersey

Does this remind you of the cylons in original Battlestar Galactica, or is that just me?

Although, in the immediate aftermath of the conflict, the impulse of the islanders was to bury the signs of occupation, more recently this part of the island’s history is being explored and preserved. Some sites are open, manned by volunteers, on certain days and the Jersey War Tunnels museum is always open and offers an informative, moving yet balanced account of the war years.

St.Ouen's Beach, Jersey

Remains of WW2 beach defences

Most of the pillboxes and batteries remain derelict, however, stark reminders of this difficult and tragic time.

WW2 tower, Jersey

Creepily atmospheric in fog

Needless to say, they also provide an opportunity to try some moody, grainy photography, with the assistance of willing teenage son in black hoody.

Derelict war tunnel, Jersey

Someone has been decorating

Some of the derelict structures have been used, although all signs of habitation seemed pretty old.

graffiti in war tunnel

What does this mean?

Teenager in derelict war tunnel

Moodiness comes with the territory

More about Jersey tomorrow.