Grand Altar Frontal
An embroided Grand Altar frontal made by injured soldiers during World War One, currently on display at St Paul's Cathedral.
This piece has a poignant significance as embroidery was encouraged as a technique to distract injured soldiers from the horrors they had experienced. The three metre wide altar frontal depicts the Holy Grail and palm leaves, representing victory and suffering. It was presented to St Paul's Cathedral where it was displayed on the altar for several years. However, when the cathedral was bombed during World War Two, it was placed in a chest for safe keeping. It remained in storage for almost 70 years before finally being recovered in 2014.
A significant portion of the embroidery was done by George Eades, a blinded World War One and Boer War veteran. George was relatively unusual amongst the veterans who came to Blind Veterans UK as a result of WWI in that he also served in the Boer War. Born in Berkshire in 1870, Eades was a member of the 39th Berkshire Company of the Imperial Yeomanry. He then emigrated to Canada, serving as a Quartermaster Sergeant for the Canadian Forestry Corps. In France in 1917, he unfortunately suffered a head injury which lead to the loss of his sight.
It was when George came to Blind Veterans UK in Regent's Park that he found himself again. He became a very accomplished embroidery artist. The altar frontal at St Paul's is also accompanied by a beautiful 'memorial book' in which George Eades is featured. He and many of the native Canadians who came to Regent's Park were important in the development of the Canadian National Institude of the Blind at this time and in particular the formation of what is now the Sir Arthur Pearson Association of War Blinded (SAPA).
As the name suggests, this was greatly influenced by our founder Sir Arthur Pearson and his early work in Regent's Park, and SAPA continues to this day to provide assistance to, and a voice for, the blinded veterans of Canada.
The altar frontal will be on display in St Paul's Cathedral until 2018. Visit the St Paul's website for more information and a list of all of the wounded soldiers who contributed to it.
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