Over the years, Campbell Smith & Co have built up a strong relationship with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and have had the great privilege in completing a series of conservation projects at the Royal Air Forces War Memorial in Runnymede.
Located on Cooper’s Hill overlooking the River Thames, the Memorial commemorates over 20,000 men and women of the Commonwealth air forces, who were lost in the Second World War during operations from bases in the United Kingdom and North and Western Europe, and who have no known graves. The name of each of these airmen and airwomen is engraved into the stone panels of the memorial, chronologically and according to rank.
The first project began in December 2018, this was a scheme of conservation to the painted ceiling mural by the preeminent glass artist and muralist, John Hutton. The project included a custom designed cleaning strategy to safeguard the sensitive decorative strata, whilst removing the biological growth and accumulated dirt. Any fragile delaminating paint was consolidated, and the loss reintegrated to create a once again, unified piece of art.
In early 2020, the second phase of the project began. This involved the conservation of 44 cloister panels, each panel representing Commonwealth coats of arms. In addition, a scheme of investigation led to the reinstatement of the decorative borders to each cloister, with Air Force blue discovered and chosen as the most historically appropriate colour, with the re-gilding of the hundreds of surrounding stars, rediscovered through research and investigations. The flanking cupolas were cleaned and conserved.
The final project at the memorial began in early 2021, this was for the conservation and restoration to Astral Corona, which sat atop of the monument at the highest point. The composite metal structure was sensitively treated, with corrosion removed and selective repairs undertaken. The decorative scheme was restored with Air Force blue and gilded once again, with the nickel and brass buttons revealed after removal of a heavy accumulation of paint and corrosion products. The domed ceiling in the tower additionally was conserved and several hidden stars were reinstated.
Within weeks of completion, the Queen took her first public appearance of 2021 at the memorial, to celebrate the centenary of the Royal Australian Air Force. The Memorial was originally unveiled by The Queen on 17 October 1953.