Remembering the First World War

Remembering the First World War

War Memorial Window above North door © Dean and Canons of Windsor [8050616 SGC War Memorial window ROY_260416_ 007]
War Memorial Window above North door © Dean and Canons of Windsor
The Great War, now commonly called the First World War, officially ended on 11 November 1918, when the Armistice was signed at 5 am and came into effect at 11 am. Sir Walter Parratt, Organist since 1882, informed the boys of St George’s School that morning. The school magazine of Christmas 1918 reports that when they heard the happy news, they stopped work at once and that throughout the day afterwards, preparations for a celebration were undertaken. Musical instruments could be heard in the passages all afternoon, and in the evening they decorated rooms for a fancy dress dance and set off some old fireworks in jubilation.

However, a special thanksgiving service on the day after the Armistice reminded all in attendance of the cost of the War. Throughout the War and afterwards, the College of St George, like the town of Windsor and the entire nation, was not exempt from great loss and sorrow. The College and the Old Boys of St George’s School sought to honour those whose lives had been cut short through the installation of a memorial window dedicated to the sixteen young men who had once been pupils of the school and choristers in the Chapel.

“They will not be forgotten, but will be held in grateful remembrance, and their memory will be a dear possession to those who come after them.”
St George’s School Magazine, Christmas 1918 [SGC M.956]

Permission for a memorial window was granted by the College on 19 July 1919, and a window was ordered from stained glass workshop Clayton & Bell on 17 July 1920 for the cost of £350. It was funded both by the Dean and Canons of Windsor and St George’s School’s Old Boys’ Association, who raised over £200 by donations. Canon Dalton enthusiastically took up the task on behalf of the Chapter to design a fitting monument, alongside Clayton and Bell. The window was installed in 1921 above the North Door of the Chapel, the door through which the boys and men of the Choir passed through several times of a day.

The window consists of twelve lights, and the iconography appropriately depicts soldier saints and themes of boyhood.[1] There are eight figures in the upper windows: St Pancras, Gregory the Great, Martin of Tours and St Alban, King Alfred and his mother, Little Hugh of Lincoln, St Louis of France, and St Christopher. Below are two lights upon which the names of the former pupils fallen in both of the World Wars are inscribed. In 1949, the inscription panel in the lowest tier was modified to also include the names of those who were lost during the Second World War. However, although he died during the First World War, the name of R.D. Atkinson is missing from the window. He enlisted in 1915, but was severely wounded in 1916 and caught in a German advance. Though they supposed that he may be a prisoner of war, when he did not return by 1922, the School declared that he had been killed in action and added his name to the list of those lost.

The window was dedicated during a special service on Saturday afternoon on 30 April 1921 by the Dean of Windsor, Dr. A. Baillie. A newspaper clipping reported that “A large number of relatives and friends of the boys and the present boys of St George’s Choir School were also present.” Sir Walter Parratt, who would have personally known all sixteen boys during their time at the school, was at the organ. They sang Schubert’s anthem “the Lord is my Shepherd” and the hymn “Soldiers of Christ, who are Christ’s below” [CL 175]. In the years afterwards, the Old Boys’ Association of St George’s School would meet annually for a service to commemorate those who had given their lives during the Great War.

On many occasions throughout the War, former pupils would write to the school from the front. The Magazines published by the School during this period are a testament to the impact of the War, but also offer glimpses into what life was like before they were soldiers. These were days filled not only with learning or the choir, but also with hobbies and competitions, such as theatre, school clubs, and sports. Within a few short years, their lives were altered and then tragically cut short.

During the centenary month of the Armistice, we remember the sacrifices of the men who were lost by releasing blog posts about the First World War, including profiles of choristers and the family of one of the Lay Clerks of St George’s Chapel. However, we remember all individuals who served during the First and Second World Wars. We invite you to visit the memorial window above the North door in the Chapel in their memory.

In Memory of those Members of St George’s Choir School who gave their lives
in the Great War, 1914-1918

C.W. Battye, Berkshire, Regiment and R.F.C.
J.N. Bigge, K.R.R.C.
H.W. Bostock, South Staffordshire Regiment
H.E.L. Cox, Queen Victoria’s Rifles
W.C.H. Cree, R.F.A.
G.W. Daman, Seaforth Highlanders
C.E. Fishbourne, R.E.
L.J. Harrison, Lancashire Fusiliers
G.B. Johnson, Norfolk Regiment
J.W. Ley, Artists’ Rifles
K.J.A. Lidiard, Royal Fusiliers
C.E.K. Pierson, R.F.C.
D.E. Roberts, East Surrey Regiment
W.A. Slade, R.F.A
M.A. Somerville, Rifle Brigade
H.S. Spurling, East Surrey Regiment

[1] Martin Harrison, ‘Clayton Bell and the Stained Glass of St George’s Chapel, Windsor’ in A History of the Stained Glass of St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, ed. Sarah Brown, Windsor: Maney Publishing, 2005, pp. 147-166.

Kristen Mercier, Assistant Archivist

The King's Free Chapel. The Chapel of the Most Honourable and Noble Order of the Garter. The Chapel of the College of St George.