ON THIS side of the Atlantic, it is almost forgotten that the
United States declared war on Britain in 1812. Probably not many
people in the UK could say what it was about, but we were being
reluctant to give up our hold on our former colony, and the
Americans were chafing at our trade restrictions, and our
insistence that the British were the British, whether they
considered them themselves naturalised Americans or not, and could
therefore be pressed into service in the Royal Navy.
The war lasted two and a half years, and no boundaries changed
hands. The Americans tried to invade Canada; we burned down the
White House; but the Americans finally and overwhelmingly defeated
us at the Battle of New Orleans, in January 1815.
Meanwhile, we brought 6500 US prisoners to Plymouth, and marched
them to Dartmoor Prison, in Exeter diocese, where
they joined French prisoners who had been fighting under Napoleon.
While there, they spent two years working on St Michael and All
Most of the US prisoners eventually returned home, but about 250
died while in captivity. They were buried in the church's
graveyard, and were remembered in the east window donated in 1910
by the US Daughters of 1812.
St Michael's is now in the hands of the Churches Conservation
Trust (CCT), which is currently overseeing the conservation of the
window. Children from the local primary school are also taking part
in the window project by designing and decorating a temporary
replacement window in Perspex, while the original is being worked
on. And, a short while ago, members of the CCT staff joined
representatives of the French government, the Royal Navy, the
British Legion, and HM Prison Dartmoor, at St Michael's, to honour
the French and American prisoners-of-war who built the church.