Soldiers in church

28 November 2014

Middlesex Regiment and St Paul's, Mill Hill, in north London, goes back to 1905, when the regiment moved into new barracks that had been built on farmland in the parish. Sunday-morning church parades with soldiers in uniform and the regimental band soon became a regular and valued event, and the people of Mill Hill welcomed what became known as the "Garden Barracks" with gifts of plants and trees. The baptisms and marriages of soldiers began to appear in the registers, and, eventually, funerals.

St Paul's itself has the distinction of having been built by William Wilberforce, and among its stained-glass windows are two of modern design by John Reyntiens, who famously designed the Diamond Jubilee window in Westminster Hall. One of the windows, installed in 2012, is known as the "Proclaiming Liberty" window, and commemorates Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery by featuring chains, linked and broken, to symbolise slavery and freedom.

The other "Celebration" window, also installed in 2012, is a bright and simple depiction of the biblical jubilee represented by symbols of nurture and growth.

Now there is a third window by John Reyntiens to commemorate the long relationship with the Middlesex Regiment, which has since been amalgamated with other regiments. It has been commissioned and given by the Middlesex Regimental Association, which still keeps up its relationship with the church. The window represents troops, pain, suffering, death, an angel, the ascension, and celebration.

"My immediate idea for this window was to think about just how many people were involved in the Regiment," Mr Reyntiens says. "Whether killed in action or not, there is always a huge number of servicemen involved. I wanted to create a mass of soldiers by having them receding into the background. . . The sharp red areas towards the top of the window signify pain, fire, and destruction. . . There are also tombs. . .

"I wanted us to be reminded of war cemeteries, and the reality that people will suffer . . . as in the bottom of the window, where we find our greatest emblem of suffering and redemption, Jesus Christ crucified."

It was appropriate that the window was dedicated during the commemorations of the suffering of the First World War.

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