Homesick servicemen found comfort and community inside churches during the war years, especially at Christmas time. And after the war ended, hundreds of churches, both large and small, installed stained glass windows to thank their defenders. This lovely example erected in the Welsh town of Pembroke Dock features the badges of units from the British and Commonwealth air forces, and the U.S. Navy.
Not many photographs were taken in churches during the war years, but here is one from the village of Greston, England. Typically wartime church services were crowded with uniforms.
And here’s another taken during Christmas Eve service in 1944, showing members of one bomber squadron receiving communion at an airbase somewhere in England.
This unusual window honours those who died in training. The large Christ the King window at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in North Battleford, Saskatchewan was paid for by the Royal Air Force in memory of several dozen comrades killed in training at this single air base alone. A staggering 1,146 trainees died in Canada before they ever joined the battle overseas.
Occasionally memorial windows named individual family members, like this one. The McLeod Memorial Window was dedicated to three members of the McLeod family, from the small town of Melway, Australia. Two died in the First World War, and one in the Second World War.
Sometimes windows commemorated a much larger group. This so-named “Spitfire” window was created to honour all members of RAF Fighter Command. It’s located at the former RAF Bentley Priory, headquarters of Fighter Command during the Second World War. After the RAF base closed in 2008, a museum was created. To see more about this new museum, click here: Bentley Priory Museum.
Not all windows were designed to honour the fighting men. This Battle of Britain Memorial Window was commissioned by the Rolls-Royce company to remember the contribution of designers who put in eighty-hour weeks to provide the Merlin engines that equipped the fighter aircraft.
This memorial window in the tiny town of Sainte Mere Eglise, France thanks the American paratroopers (note the parachutes descending) who landed and extinguished a massive blaze after a stray incendiary bomb set the town on fire on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Not all the windows date back to the immediate post-war years. This is a new window, with a more contemporary treatment of poppies, commissioned in 2005 to replace an older wooden memorial in the Welsh village of Llanyr.
The St. George’s Chapel of Remembrance at the former fighter station RAF Biggin Hill is particularly appealing, because it honours the contribution of ground crew along with women in uniform. There are seventeen memorial windows in total; these are only four of them.
If you attend church this Christmas season, look around and admire the stained glass windows. You may find one honouring the memories of the men and women who defended our freedom to worship.
And please take a moment to send them a silent prayer of thanks.
MY FAVOURITE VETERANS
I have collected twenty-eight original stories from Wartime Wednesdays and made them available in printed book form. To read more, click: My Favourite Veterans: True Stories From World War Two's Hometown Heroes. To order a signed copy for $35.00 Canadian, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 250-342-1621. Shipping costs drop if you order two or more sent to the same address.
This book would make an ideal gift for veterans, seniors, or history buffs.
You may also purchase a copy from Amazon by clicking here: My Favourite Veterans: True Stories From World War Two's Hometown Heroes.
(The lovely couple on the front cover are none other than flying ace Stocky Edwards and his wife Toni, also an RCAF veteran. You can read their story by clicking here: Stocky Edwards).
STAR WEEKLY AT WAR
The Star Weekly was a Canadian newsmagazine published by the Toronto Star. During the Second World War, a beautiful colour illustration appeared on the cover each week with a wartime theme. This one dated October 10, 1942 shows a couple in uniform sharing a hymn book.
To see my entire collection of Star Weekly covers, click: Star Weekly At War.
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I have a fascinating one-hour powerpoint presentation describing wartime women in uniform, and the little-known practice of aerial photographic interpretation. And I come dressed in my wartime vintage duds! To contact me about speaking at your organization, click: Contact.
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