ST MARY LE STRAND
In 1982 St Mary Le Strand was chosen to become the official church of the Women’s Royal Naval Service, the Women’s Royal Naval Reserve and the Association of Wrens. The dedication took place on 28 October 1984 when the WRNS Book of Remembrance was moved to the church from the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. The book was carried by Director WRNS, Commandant P Swallow – a very poignant moment for her as her mother’s name is in the book. The WRNS Book of Remembrance which can be found in a glass topped display cabinet at the rear of the church on the right hand side. The Verger is always willing to open the book at a specific page for visitors; otherwise the pages are turned regularly.
If you give members of the Association of Wrens a project you can usually guarantee that it will be carried out with gusto, and the making of kneelers for ‘our church’ was no exception! All the kneelers were made by former wrens and many are dedicated to the memory of past friends.
In addition to the Book of Remembrance there are other memorials to former Wrens including two from WWII. In front of the display cabinet is the Pascal Candle which was dedicated in 1994 to the memory of ladies lost in the sinking of the SS Khedive Ismail on 12 February 1944, while the alms dish used at services was given in memory of those Wrens who died in the sinking of the SS Aguila on 19 August 1941.
The green frontal which you will see on the altar at certain times of the year was given in memory of Dame Jocelyn Woollcombe, a former Director WRNS and President of the Association of Wrens, and the blue pulpit fall was given by the Brighton & Hove Branch of Association of Wrens.
The new windows in the nave were made possible by a very generous legacy from Miss Hazel Reed who was a former Treasurer of Association of Wrens and a Churchwarden and Treasurer of St Mary Le Strand. The bible on the lectern is also in memory of Miss Hazel Reed. Outside at the rear of the church are wrought iron gates with ‘WRNS’ incorporated in the design. These were installed in the time of Reverend Edward Thomson who was Rector when St Mary le Strand became the WRNS church.
For many years following the dedication of the church as the WRNS Church, members of London Branch and others who were able to travel, were regular supporters of the church, not only attending services but acting as guides when the church was open to the public and also helping with cleaning and flower arranging. Sadly the numbers regularly attending services or helping has dwindled but members are always made most welcome when they do attend.
The Association holds it annual Carol Service in December and details of that can be found in ‘The Wren’. Weekly services are held on Sunday at 1100 and Thursday at 1305. If you are in London for Remembrance Weekend but are not able to march at the Cenotaph please think about attending the service at ‘our church’ where a wreath is laid in memory of members of the WRNS.
The church is open to the public on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 1100 – 1600, and is to be found in the centre of Strand sandwiched between two roads and opposite Somerset House. It is also part of the parish of St Clement Danes, the church of the RAF.
Whenever you should decide to visit the church you will always receive a warm welcome and please sign the Association of Wrens’ Visitors Book at the back of the church. Remember it is OUR CHURCH and please continue to support it.
Find out more about St Mary le Strand on www.stmarylestrand.org
The Wrens' Prayer
Almighty and most merciful God,
the protector of those who
go down to the sea in ships;
Bless we beseech thee,
all the women who serve
beside their brethren in the Royal Navy,
Bless also, we beseech thee,
all the members of the Association of Wrens
and women members of the Royal Naval Reserve.
Bind them together in loyalty and fellowship,
in danger protect them,
in doubt and temptation guide and uphold them,
and grant them at all times the help of thy grace
Through Jesus Christ our Lord,