Thursday, 28 May 2015

A Year in Pictures – 26 and 27 May 2015 – The Lancastria Window

The Lancastria memorial window was installed in St Katharine Cree Church on Leadenhall Street in the City of London in 1963. It is by Farrar Bell and commemorates the sinking, on 17 June 1940, of HMT Lancastria off the south coast of Brittany. The vessel, built as a liner, had been commandeered to evacuate British troops, as well as French and Belgian civilians, escaping the German invasion of France. 

Around 4,000 lives were lost in the sinking and it remains to this day the worst ever British maritime disaster. It was kept hidden from the British people until after the end of World War II so as not to damage morale so soon after the mixture of embarrassment and triumph that was the famous evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk the previous month. A survivors' organisation was founded and although it has now been formally wound up, there is still an annual act of remembrance in the church every June, attended by family members and the poignantly dwindling band of those who were caught up in the sinking.

When the window was originally installed, there were ugly offices in the side aisles of the church and the lower parts of the aisle windows were in plain glass to let light into the working spaces. The offices were removed in 2010 and now the Lancastria window has been completed with lower sections designed by Michael Coles and funded by a generous donation from The Friends of St Katharine Cree. The new panels, made by Lincolnshire Stained Glass Studio, were installed on 23 May and I saw them for the first time on Monday the 25th.

Deep colour floods into the church through the richly aqueous vertical panels on either side, while the clear glass sections sparkle like the tumble of a waterfall. A sea serpent is shown in yellow holding a roundel bearing the date of the disaster. It is a fantastic piece of work and took my breath away when I went to photograph it. The image is a composite of seven shots taken at direct exposures to yield a high dynamic range.

The second photograph was taken on my phone on 27 May and shows the new bands of colour across the base of the window frame and spilling into the aisle.

No comments:

Post a Comment