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Battle of Britain memorial lace panel


Well-Known Member

Column 1 [left side, from top to bottom]:
Harry Cross, Designer; badge of the Royal New Zealand Royal Air Force with fern leaf; tottering building in Queen Victoria Street (showing NFS firemen at work); City Temple, Holborn, in ruins; the Old Bailey; Buckingham Palace (showing damage to the gates) with the Royal Coat of Arms displayed on the portico; figure of fighter pilot standing by his aircraft; acorns, daffodil and shamrock.

Column 2 [centre, from top to bottom]:
Delbeta Dobsons and M. Browne & Co. Ltd, Nottingham. England; badge of the Royal Canadian Air Force with maple leaf; badge of the Royal Air Force with tudor rose; badge of the Royal Australian Air force with wattle; the words 'The Battle of Britain' on a background of flames; British Spitfire, Hurricane and Defiant aircraft in combat with German Messerschmitt, Stuka and Dornier aircraft; airmen 'bailing out'; a typical country cottage with oak tree adjacent and an English mansion; St Paul 's Cathedral surrounded by flames (The sculpture over the portico can be identified and the time on the cathedral clock is 19.25 hours); scroll with Winston Churchill quote, 'Never was so much owed by so many to so few'; Royal Air Force badge; thistle, tudor rose, thistle.

Column 3 [right, from top to bottom]:
W. Herod and W. J. Jackson, draughtsmen; badge of the South Africa Air Force (Lug-Mag) with protea; St Mary's church, Bow (through the window can be seen the dome and cross of St Paul 's); St Clement Danes church (showing remaining walls); walls of the Guildhall; House of Commons showing damage (figures can be seen in the damaged porch); thistle and shamrock, and anti-aircraft gun and searchlights in action; shamrock, daffodil, acorns.

The panel is edged with a repeat pattern of ripening ears of corn, representing the season in which the Battle of Britain took place, interwoven with tudor roses, thistles, shamrocks and oak leaves.







Norwich Cathedral

I find this fascinating very much in keeping with the medieval tradition of making tapestries of significant events.

Today these are scattered across the Commonwealth, whilst the exact number seems to vary with every source you research, there seems to be 30 of the reported 38 originally made still in existence, they are mostly held in museums or private collections.

Everything about these panels is on a large scale, their size is 15ft by 56 inches , they each contain 4,200 threads, and 25 miles miles of cotton. But what really strikes you is the many individual cameos of the events of the Battle of Britain making up the complete tapestry, be they dog fights, burning buildings, pilots bailing out, anti aircraft guns with search lights plus emblems representing all parts of the Commonwealth involved.

"The Battle of Britain lace panel was designed and manufactured between 1942 and 1947 by the British lace curtain firm of Dobsons and M. Browne & Co. Ltd. to commemorate the battle, and as a tribute to those who fought to save Britain. During the Second World War the firm devoted most of its output to the production of mosquito and camouflage netting. As a means of retaining the skills and standards of their highly trained designers and drafting staff who were under-employed by the wartime production requirements, the firm took up the idea of making a large commemorative lace panel.
The design for the panel, which began in 1942, took two years, and the drafting of the jacquard (pattern cards) another 15 months.
Mr Harry Cross, the firm’s head designer, was given the job of designing the curtain. He was 73 years old, and during the previous 20 years his skill had led to the production of millions of metres of lace in the factory. Every detail had to be accurate, so he worked from photographs, drawings and postcards collected from many sources. Some simplification of the design had to be made because of the medium in which they were to be worked. At the time he said that the most difficult drawing was that of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which he produced from a postcard.
He put the cottage and castle in the centre to show that rich and poor suffered together. It is reported that Mr Cross said at the time, “They told me to do the best I could, and that’s what I did”, the work taking him two years to complete.

The completed design was then handed on for drafting to Mr W. Herod, a very experienced draughtsman, who unfortunately died when the task was only half finished. It was completed by Mr W.R. Jackson who had been in the trade for 45 years. This is a very skillful job requiring knowledge of the whole production process, as it entails translating the drawing on to squared paper, and variously colouring the squares to show the different threads to be used in the loom. The tedious and exacting task took 15 months.

A jacquard is a method of controlling the pattern being made on a loom, by a system of differential thread selection. The draft was transferred to the jacquard by Mr Alf Webster who made a set of cards which he individually punched holes to control the varying threads in the loom. In all he punched 40,000 cards which weighed over a ton. The cards completed, they were sewn together in order, to form a continuous strip, hundreds of metres long and about 0.5 metres wide. This strip was then put on the loom. At this stage there was no way of checking the correctness of the punched cards, full dependence had to be put on to the craftsman’s skill.

The loom used was made by Swift & Wass & Co. Ltd. of Nottingham in about 1880.

Thirty-eight panels are said to have been woven before the jacquards were destroyed but as it is thought that four panels were woven at a time, the total may have been thirty-six or another multiple of four.

Once the panels were completed Dobsons and Browne planned to make formal presentations to individuals, air force units, towns, and Commonwealth nations who had either contributed to, or been affected directly by the battle of Britain. These included King George VI and Sir Winston Churchill, various RAF units, Westminster Abbey, the City of Nottingham (where the panels were woven), the City of London, and some of the staff from Dobsons and Browne. As airmen from New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and Australia had been attached to various RAF units, these countries were also to receive a panel. The presentations began in 1947, but it is uncertain whether all of those originally proposed by Dobsons and Browne took place.
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