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Unique among 40,000 memorials

The first of the men from Swaffham Prior commemorated by these windows died in 1915.

From early in the war discussions took place on how to honour the dead, especially as it became apparent that the majority would be buried overseas and huge numbers would have no known graves. By the time these windows were dedicated the village had lost twenty three men and only two were buried in the village cemetery. Eight (or nine) had no known grave on the western front; six were buried in France; two in Belgium and one each in Greece, Israel, Syria and Canada. Relatives had no individual graves for their mourning:

“in the absence of actual remains, memorials became physical reminders. They could be looked at, touched or prayed beside”
(Professor Jolyon Mitchell, Promoting Peace, Inciting Violence).

A communal memorial was planned in many localities to commemorate lost sons, husbands, fathers, brothers, fiancés, friends and colleagues; over 40,000 war memorials exist in the UK, and of these 2,000 are stained-glass windows. It is unusual, however, for a village memorial to be inside the parish church.

Swaffham Prior’s non-conformists objected to the village war memorial being situated in the parish church and planned their own memorial. The marble plaque commemorating ten chapelgoers was dedicated on 20 November 1919 and C P Allix spoke at the ceremony, apparently attempting to build bridges: “I see times coming when all creeds will be melted down.” The Zion Baptist memorial plaque has recently been re-installed in the front garden of the former chapel on the High Street and may be viewed through the railings.

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