(With acknowledgements to Capt. R. Bonner’s Booklet
‘The Chapel of The Manchester Regiment and The King’s Regiment’)
Memorial Services to remember the men of the Regiment killed between 1914 and 1918 were held regularly in Manchester Cathedral following that held on the 15th April 1918 to commemorate the 16th Battalion (Pals) Battalion after the Battle of Manchester Hill.
By the mid 1930’s the need for a Chapel within the Cathedral was a brave objective both within the Regiment and the many friends in the local population.
Derby Chapel becomes Regimental Chapel
In 1936 the 17th Earl of Derby agreed that the Derby Chapel could be dedicated for the use of the Regiment. It was the largest chapel in the Cathedral and had been founded as a chapel dedicated to St John the Baptist by James Stanley, Bishop of Ely, a former Warden of the Collegiate Church of St. Mary, St. Denys and St. George as a thanksgiving for their safe return from the Battle of Flodden Field in September 1513.
Inaugural Ceremony of Turning the Leaves
The inaugural ceremony of Turning the Leaves of the Books of Remembrance, which honours those who made the ultimate sacrifice whilst serving in The Manchester Regiment, took place on the 1st July 1937 and was carried out by members of the Regimental
Depot at Ashton-under-Lyne.
Memorial Books saved from German Land-mine
Early in the morning of 23rd December 1940 a German land-mine exploded just outside the north eastern corner of the Chapel causing very severe damage to the entire Cathedral; the walls and roof at the east end of the Chapel disappeared and the foundations were
pulverised. Fortunately the Altar Cross, Candlesticks and Memorial Books had been taken away to a place of safety a few days earlier and were saved.
Rebuilding the Chapel
Immediately after the end of World War II came the task of rebuilding the Chapel under the leadership of Sir Hubert Worthington R.A. He was the Honorary Architect who gathered a team of craftsmen together in 1946 when work commenced in earnest, matching up the new with the old so successfully that with consequential aging any difference in shading is difficult to detect in the work of different centuries.
The Chapel was in the darkest area of the Cathedral and it was the intention of the architect to change this by glazing all of the windows in crystal clear glass thus allowing the interior to be enhanced and the warmth of the woodwork, stone and the Colours be revealed in all their glory. Upon his death in 1964 it was felt that there should be a permanent memorial within the Chapel to him and after discussions with the family it was decided that the east window behind the altar should be filled with colour in his memory. Miss Margaret Traherne was commissioned to design and create this window. As can be seen”… the dominant colour is red, the colour of alarm and of fire with its ancient associations with war and sacrifice and the glory of resurrection..” it ultimately became known by many of the Old Comrades as ‘The Blitz Window’ because it reminded many of us of the flames that arose above Manchester on that December day in 1940.
The Shrine of 1914 – 1918 was repaired and a new shrine was added to commemorate those of the Regiment who fell in the post war campaigns of Mesopotamia, Ireland, Palestine and the 1939-1945 campaign. Subsequently further Shrines were added for those K.I.A. in the years following 1945, notably Malaya and Northern Ireland and then finally the one dedicated to those awarded the V.C or G.C.
Chapel Rededicated in 1951
On the 16th November 1951 the completed Chapel was rededicated by the Dean of Manchester, the Right Reverend J.I Wilson, CMG, DD, in the presence of Queen Elizabeth, Colonel in Chief of the Regiment. H.M. the Queen Turned the Leaves of the new Book of Remembrance. On that occasion the 8th (Ardwick) Battalion of the Regiment provided a Guard of Honour.
Chapel bombed again in 1996
Tragically a powerful bomb, the work of Irish Terrorists, was exploded on the morning of Saturday 15th June 1996 causing considerable damage to many buildings in that central part of Manchester near to the Cathedral. Damage to the Regimental Chapel was confined basically to the Worthington Memorial Window that had much of the glass blown out and the leading greatly weakened. An appeal for funds was put in hand by the Chapel Committee and was quickly supported by all units of the Regiment. Miss Traherne was available to advise and supervise the cleaning and replacement of new glass where necessary of the complete window.
Turning of the Leaves
Every alternate Wednesday a short service of Turning of the Leaves is held at 12.45 with members of the Old Comrades Association attending and a full Service is held on the
George. A. Swetman with acknowledgements to Capt. R. Bonner and his booklet The Chapel of The Manchester Regiment.