British Prisoners of War 1914-1918

On 14th June 1926 a stained glass window, designed by Sir J. Ninian Comper, was dedicated in the north choir aisle of Westminster Abbey to remember all British prisoners of war in Germany who died during the First World War. It was presented by James Gerard, US Ambassador in Berlin, who looked after British interests there until America joined the conflict. He had visited the prisoners in the camps and for the dedication (which he could not unfortunately attend) he sent a message reading: "This window is dedicated to those of my wards who made a sacrifice as great as did those who fell fighting on the field of battle, and who, in captivity, showed themselves to be Christian gentlemen as well as patriots". The inscription reads: 

In memory of British Prisoners of War who died in Germany 1914-1918. A tribute from the American Ambassador in Berlin 1914-1917

About the window

The main figures in the window show King Henry VI and Richard Harweden, abbot of Westminster, continuing the theme shown in the north nave aisle windows by the same designer.

At the head of the window is the red rose of the house of Lancaster, with the shields of France and England and those of the King's two foundations, Eton and King's College, Cambridge. In the borders beside each large figure are twelve statuettes of members of his family, Our Lady, St Nicholas and St Louis, and sixteen coats of arms. These include the shields of Cardinal Beaufort and Joan of Arc. Also depicted are the King's badge, the spotted leopard, and the battle cry "Dieu et mon droit", which Henry VI was the first to assume as a regular motto. Above Henry's figure, whose face was modelled on that of the Russian dancer Nijinsky, is a scene showing him asleep in the Tower of London with angels above his head holding a model of the chapel which Henry VII had intended to build at the Abbey in his memory. Above the Abbot's figure is a scene showing the king instructing a mason (holding a pickaxe) to mark out a place for his tomb beside the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor. Actually Henry was not buried in the Abbey in the end but at Windsor.

At the base is shown the American eagle and coat of arms with the arms of the United Kingdom. Also the shields of Newfoundland, India, Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand who fought with the British during the war.

(A memorial to the Million War Dead of the First World War can be seen in St George's chapel).

 

Occupation

Soldier; airman

Location

North Choir Aisle

Memorial Type

Window

Material Type

Glass

British Prisoners of War 1914-1918
Base of British Prisoners of War 1914-1918 window

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2022 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Stained glass window remembering British Prisoners of War 1914-18 with large figures of Henry VI and Abbot Harweden.
Prisoners of War window

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2022 Dean and Chapter of Westminster