St Giles – British Legion War Memorial Window

A year after the end of the Second World War, members of St Giles’ church council turned their thoughts to installing a stained glass window in the north chapel in memory of the fallen. Initial thoughts were that it would “embody figures of soldier saints, and scenes from the sea and an airfield, to commemorate the Navy and the RAF”.1 However, it was not until this was adopted as a project by the local branch of the British Legion that the window became a reality.

By the end of 1948, the West Bridgford branch of the British Legion was one of the finest in the country. It had 1,010 members and had sections devoted to a wide range of activities including angling, bowling, cricket, darts, dancing, both tennis and table tennis, snooker and billiards, and even had its own choir.2 They were well-positioned to raise the sum needed for the window. By January 1949, they had already raised half the amount although their newsletter did say that “if each member gave 5s the anxiety of the committee would be relieved”.3 Members responded to the appeal and, in less than a year from the launch of the project, they raised the £300 needed for the window.4 The glass was made by James Powell and Sons of London and delivered to the church in good time to be inserted into the window on 22nd January 1950, after which it was veiled until the dedication ceremony.

The dedication took place on Sunday, 5th February. It was to be unveiled by Major-General Sir John Whitaker, County President, and dedicated by the Chaplain-General, Rev F Ll Hughes. However, the Chaplain-General came down with influenza and the Archdeacon of Nottingham, the Venerable John Phillips, took his place. Otherwise, everything went according to plan and Sir John Whitaker remarked that he had never seen such a large congregation in a parish church before.5,6

The window was described in the parish magazine as “in the modern style with bright colours, and clear glass which allows plenty of light even on dull days”.7 It has the Royal Arms at the top. Below are two military knights, St George and St Martin. The latter’s saint’s day is 11th November; he is always shown with a fine cloak, as a story is told of him that one cold day he cut it with his sword and gave half of it to a poor man in need by the wayside. Below the saints are four scenes, each with a man in uniform of the Services – Navy, Army, Air Force and Merchant Navy – with their badges and Divisional Signs in the border. Underneath is written the Legion Act of Homage – the first line slightly misquoted as “They shall not grow old” – with the badge and poppy on either side.

References
1. Nottingham Evening Post 23rd September 1946
2. Nottingham evening Post 26th December 1948
3. Nottingham Evening Post 10th January 1949
4. Nottingham Evening Post 11th January 1950
5. St Giles Parish Magazine March 1950
6. Service Leaflet for the Dedication of the British Legion War Memorial Window 1950
7. St Giles Parish Magazine February 1950

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