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Sacrifices Honoured in Stained Glass

Homesick servicemen found comfort and community in church 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.

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 he American paratroopers (note the parachutes descending) who landed in the tiny town of and helped to put out a massive blaze after a stray incendiary 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 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.

If you attend church this Christmas, look around and admire the stained glass windows. You just may find one honouring the memories of the men and women who defended our freedom to worship however we please.

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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 whole collection of Star Weekly covers, click: Star Weekly At War.

Read about the Star Weekly artist who created this beautiful illustration here: Elizabeth Cutler.



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