‘Something Quite Exceptional’: Hugh Easton and the Battle of Britain Memorial Window for Rolls-Royce

Something Quite Exceptional’: Hugh Easton and the Battle of Britain Memorial Window for Rolls-Royce, by Adam Goodyear, 86 pages, b/w & colour illustrations, softcover, ISBN 13: 978 1 872922 46-1, The Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust, 2010, £7 plus pp available from Ian Allen Publishing.

After World War II the glass painter Hugh Easton (1906–1965) was commissioned to design a memorial window to the Battle of Britain pilots, whose courage and skill saved this country from invasion in 1940. Dedicated in 1947 and unveiled by King George VI, the window was installed in Henry VII’s Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey. It includes the badges of the fighter squadrons that flew in the Battle and images of pilots and visions of the Resurrection.

This book adds a fascinating extra new dimension to that story by focusing on a second window designed by Eaton to commemorate that battle; the memorial window at the Rolls-Royce factory in Derby recording the immense contribution of the designers and workers who provided the aircraft engines for that titanic struggle.

The facts are straightforward. As the Battle began, production rose from 2,000 engines in 1939 to 7,000 in 1940 with the day shift working right through to hand over to the night shift, seven days a week. It was not uncommon for men to put in over 80 hours week. Little wonder that Sir Archibald Sinclair, the Secretary of State for Air during the Battle, said that the pilots of the RAF were proud to call such men their comrades.

The window showed a fighter pilot standing on the spinner of an airscrew with the sheds and buildings of the Derby factory stretched out below him [Fig. 1].

Fig. 1. Battle of Britain Memorial window, Derby, courtesy of the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust.

Fig. 1. Battle of Britain Memorial window, Derby, courtesy of the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust.

The book consists of a history of the Derby window, a short biography of Eaton, including the mixed reactions his Westminster Abbey design provoked, together with a facsimile of the booklet that Rolls-Royce published after the unveiling of their window in July 1949, containing the speeches, addresses, hymns, order of service and the names of those who attended the event. Then, and subsequently, it was a source of great pride to the company and its workers.

Sadly when the factory was closed a few years ago, the window was removed for safe-keeping and is now in storage seeking a new home. Not unreasonably some have interpreted its fate as symptomatic of much more than the removal of a single window. Like other readers of this interesting publication I can only hope that its eventual reinstallation will revive the spirit that created it.

Further Reading

For other memorial windows to aviators see: D. Beaty, Light Perpetual: Aviators’ Memorial Windows, 176 pages, Airlife Publishing Ltd, 1995.

Name that Roundel Solution

Fig. 1. The Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican

Fig. 1. The Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican

This month’s puzzle shows The Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (sometimes called tax collector). According to the King James Bible, Gospel of St Luke, 18 verses 9 -14, Jesus used the story of two men who went into a temple to pray: one a devout Pharisee, and the other a publican to tell a parable about the sin of pride.

“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself: ‘God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess’.

And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes unto heaven; but smote upon his breast, saying: ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner’.

Whereupon Jesus said: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather that the other: for everyone that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted”.


We are extremely grateful to the stained glass scholar and Dutch CVMA author, Dr Zsuzsanna van Ruyven-Zeman, for identifying this scene, previously listed as an ‘unidentified subject’ in W. Cole, A Catalogue of Netherlandish and North European Roundels in Britain, CVMA (GB), Summary Catalogue 1, Oxford, 1993, p. 309, item, 2431.

Dr Ruyven-Zeman’s has not only identified the subject of the painting but also attributes the design to one of the most important Dutch glass painters of the sixteenth-century, Wouter Pietersz Crabeth (c, 1520/39 – 89). Details of her discoveries can be read in her article ‘Wouter Crabeth from Gouda: his glass panels in Britain and a newly discovered design’, in The Burlington Magazine, No. 1300, Vol. 153, July 2011, 458 -63.

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