The Royal Canadian Navy Centennial Memorial Window 2010

by Rear-Admiral Bill Hughes RCN with John MacFarlane 2011

Memorial Window view

The Naval Centennial Memorial Window in St. Paul’s Anglican Church Esquimalt British Columbia

In May of 2007 Rear–Admiral Bill Hughes RCN attended the dedication ceremony in Kingston Ontario of a memorial window to the Princess of Wales Own Regiment. The Regiment went to France in the First World War as the 21st Battlion of the CEF. He attended because his grandfather was the Lieutenant-Colonel commanding (later Brigadier General William St.P. Hughes) the Regiment and the 21st Battalion with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. The significance of the memorial window and the dedication ceremony struck a chord with him and he noted that the window resembled the configuration and size of those in his own St. Paul’s Church in Esquimalt. In describing it to his son, Commander Roderick Hughes RCN, the idea of a memorial for the (then) upcoming centennial was conceived.

Consecrated on December 12, 1866, St. Paul’s has a long association with the Canadian Navy. In 1911 the name of the church was changed to St. Paul’s Naval and Garrison Church. This was but one of many names. It has been called, the Admiralty Church, the Esquimalt Church, the Esquimalt Episcopal Church, and the Naval Church. Today it is mostly known as St. Paul's, Esquimalt.( Parish of St. Peter and St. Paul)

Admiral Hughes proposed the project to the Rector of the Church. A committee was formed with representatives from the Church and the naval side. The committee included Rear-Admiral Ken Summers, Ms. Debbie Towell, Major the Reverend Canon Andrew Gates, Ron Mason, Doug Henderson, Darwin Robinson and Commander Michael Morres. Rear-Admiral Hughes was appointed as the committee Chair. Approval was granted by NDHQ to include the project as an Official Naval Centennial Project. Mercer and Schaefer Glass Studios was selected to undertake the work.

A fund raising program produced more than 400 donations, from the UK, all of the Canadian provinces and territories, five US states and many towns and cities with ships named after them. The Committee further included a Book of Remembrance into which donors could submit names to be remembered and also a book detailing the significance of the symbolism of the window. Darwin Robinson, ex-Naval Officer, an expert craftsman in wood, created the container for the two books.

Designed and constructed by the glass works firm of Mercer and Schaefer Glass Studios in Victoria, the four panel window depicts the history of the Royal Canadian Navy over 100 years. The glass was imported from Germany with the craftsmanship of the window carried out in Victoria. The window is protected by a transparent Lexan screen on the outside. The window was dedicated in May 2010 by Bishop James Cowan in a ceremony in the Church.

Memorial Book

Memorial Book

"When we have finished the fleet reviews, band performances and many other special events to mark the 100 anniversary of Canada’s Naval Service, this window will be a lasting tribute to the Navy and our sailors for generations to come," said retired Rear-Admiral Bill Hughes, head of the committee which made this official centennial project a reality. "This window and the Naval Homecoming Statue in the Inner Harbour will be the two lasting monuments that will mark the naval centennial in Victoria," said Hughes.

Memorial Window

The anchor at the top of the window is thought to have originated with the construction of the Church in 1866. The small glass chips around the anchor were changed to blue to match the rest of the window. The blue reminds us of the sea in all four panels. Shown vertically in ghostly white are the names of the Canadian Navy ships sunk in World War One (HMCS Galiano), and the 24 sunk in World War Two in the Battle of the Atlantic. The red jewels scattered about the four panels remember the lives lost when the ships were sunk. Shown in the gold rope around the four panels are the names of the 24 Naval Reserve Divisions going from West to East across Canada. A stained glass window must be colourful to be effective, so grey hulled ships and submarines were ruled out. But the colourful symbols of the units were used instead. The badges chosen were those of ships and units with strong historical significance, those representing a class of ships or a type of ship.

Key to the Symbolism of the Windows

. The symbols in the Window must not only remember the ships and other equipment , but also the people that gave a soul to our Navy.

Left Hand Window

Left Hand Window
  • 1. Badge of Maritime Command Pacific (2010)
  • 2. The White Ensign, flown by ships of the RCN until 1965 when it was replaced by the Canadian Flag.
  • 3. Badge of HMCS Naden, the main shore base on the Pacific coast 1922-68, it is now known as CFB Esquimalt (2010).
  • 4. Badge of HMCS Patriot, the badge of the Commanding Officer Naval Divisions in Hamilton Ontario. It also represents the destroyer HMCS Patriot (1920-28) which with HMCS Patrician were the first two destroyers in the RCN.
  • 5. The badge of HMCS Saguenay represents the the Two destroyers (D-70 and DDH-206)
  • 6. Fisgard Light at the entrance to Esquimalt Harbour was built in 1860, the first on Canada’s west coast, guiding naval ships into Esquimalt Harbour since that time.
  • 7. The gold stripes represent the three branches of the navy in the Second World War. The RCN, the RCNR and the RCNVR.
  • 8. The badge of HMCS Rainbow represents HMCS Rainbow, an ex-RN cruiser which was the RCN's first ship on the Pacific coast. It also represents the submarine (an ex-USN ship) which served 1968-74.
  • 9. The gold spheres at the bottom represent St. Nicholas, patron saint of sailors (and of pawnbrokers).
  • 10. The quote is "A harvest of righteousness is sown for those who make peace." James 3-18.


Left Hand Centre Window

Left Hand Centre Window
  • 1. The original badge of the Royal Canadian Navy.
  • 2. The cap badge of a Master Seaman and the name of Master Seaman Hugh Price.
  • 3. The badge of HMCS Beacon Hill, World War Two frigate, named for the City of Victoria. Paid off in 1967.
  • 4. The badge of the Canadian Merchant Navy, vital to the war effort in the Second World War.
  • 5. The badge of HMCS Haida, Second World War Tribal Class destroyer, one of eight in the RCN, paid off in 1963 she is now berthed in Hamilton Ontario (2010).
  • 6. The badge of HMCS Ontario, a Second World War Light Cruiser , ex-HMS Minotaur, paid off in 1958.
  • 7. A shoulder rank pip of an RCN Nursing Sister from the Second World War.
  • 8. The badge of HMCS Sackville, Second World War corvette, now berthed in Halifax and operated (2010) by the Canadian Navy Memorial Trust.
  • 9. Oak leaves for Londonderry, Northern Ireland.
  • 10. The pitcher plant represents Newfoundland to commemorate the convoys that ran between Newfoundland and Londonderry during the Second World War.
  • 11. Cap tallies with the names of ships were worn by sailors on their caps to indicate to which ship they belonged. These represent HMC Ships Uganda, Algonquin, Gatineau, and Niagara.


Right Hand Centre Window

Right Hand Centre Window
  • 1. The badge of Maritime Command, a naval anchor and a maritime air eagle (2010).
  • 2. The cap badge of a naval officer (2010).
  • 3. The badge of HMCS Annapolis (DDH-265) 1964-96. Represents helicopter-carrying ships (Maritime Air). Two in class. Sunk as a diving reef in 2010.
  • 4. The cap badge of a Petty Officer (2010).
  • 5. The badge of HMCS St. Laurent (DDE-205 and DDH-205) 1955-74. Seven in class.
  • 6. The badge of HMCS Okanagan (S-74) "O"-Class ex-RN diesel electric submarine 1968-98. Three in class in Canadian Navy.
  • 7. Sea King helicopter 1963. Borne in carriers, AORs and DDH ships. Still serving in 2010.
  • 8. The badge of HMCS Bonaventure, the last Canadian Navy aircraft carrier 1957-70.
  • 9. The dolphin is the insignia of a submariner 1961-72. It has been replaced by two dolphins facing each other with a maple leaf and crown.
  • 10. Cap tallies with the names of ships were worn by sailors on their caps to indicate to which ship they belonged. These represent HMC Ships Nootka, Crusader, Chaudiere and Mackenzie


Right Hand Window

Right Hand Window
  • 1. The badge of Maritime Command Atlantic (2010).
  • 2. The Canadian Naval Jack (2010) flown at the bow of ships in harbour or at anchor (from colours to sunset).
  • 3. The badge of HMCS Halifax (FFH-330) Canadian Patrol Frigate 1992. Twelve in class.
  • 4. The Sambro Lighthouse which has been guiding ships into Halifax Harbour since 1758.
  • 5. The badge of HMCS Athabaskan (DDG-282) New tribal class destroyer 1972. Four in class.
  • 6. A navy diver’s helmet, representing the deep diving and explosive ordnance disposal activities which have also taken naval personnel to Afghanistan.
  • 7. The badge of HMCS Kingston (MM-700), Coastal Defence Vessel 1996. Twelve in class
  • 8. The badge of the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (Wrens) and the Navy Centennial Rose developed by the WRCNS Association for the 2010 Centennial.
  • 9. The badge of HMCS Protecteur, replenishment ship, 1969. Two in class.
  • 10. The signal flags for ‘B’ (Bravo) and ‘Z’ (Zulu) which is naval code for ‘Well done!’
  • 11. An Admiral saluting all the men and women of the Canadian Navy.
  • 12. Dedicated to the men and women of the Canadian Navy 1910-2010.

Upon entering the church one becomes aware of the many flags that have been ‘laid up’ here for safekeeping. At the Chancel step hangs the Naval Colour presented by King George VI to the RCN, at Beacon Hill Park when he and Queen Elizabeth visited Victoria in 1939. Across from it, hanging above the memorial to Admiral Hose, the founder of the Canadian Navy, is the White Ensign which flew on the first HMCS Vancouver before she was paid off. Beside it hang the last Red Ensign to fly at Work Point Barracks and the Blue Ensign. These were "laid up" here in the late 1960s when the new Canadian Flag was introduced. The Blue Ensign was the Naval Jack, while the Red Ensign was the flag of Canada, the Canadian Army and the merchant service.

Memorial to Admiral Hose

Memorial to Admiral Hose

Kings Colour

King’s Colour Presented to the RCN by HM King George VI

Memorial Window 2011

Memorial Window 2011

After the Naval Memorial Window was dedicated, the donations left over were sufficient to create a second set of 3 smaller windows. The windows are dedicated as the "sailors Window of Remembrance". It is dedicated to the sailors of the RN, the RFA and the RCN who have given their lives in the service of their countries. The window consists of three panels. The left-hand one is for the Royal Navy with a Naval crown, the White Ensign, the Blue Ensign and a naval fouled anchor. The Blue Ensign is flown by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA). The right-hand one is for the Royal Canadian Navy and has a Naval crown, the White ensign and the Canadian Flag and the Naval fouled anchor. The centre panel displays the same monument that appears in all the Commonwealth War Cemeteries around the world. Beneath it is a rectangular stone on which is the inscription "Their name liveth forevermore."

Because the window is so low and because the new window glass is less opaque than the old glass, objects outside the window, such as cars in the parking lot, would show up in the background. Not a good thing. So each of the small coloured diamonds in the window could not be left plain. Each now contains either a version of the Christian cross or a naval anchor. When the sun shines through the window in the afternoon the entrance is ablaze in colour.

Rear–Admiral William Andrew Hughes RCN – is a former naval flag officer and community leader in Victoria BC. His assistance in the researching of this project is greatly appreciated. Admiral Hughes was a driving force in the project and one of the major funders.

Postscript: One of the Nauticapedia contributing editors, Stephen Rybak, tells that as part of the Naval Reserve’s 50th Anniversary, "Contributions by members of the Naval Reserve made the dedication of a stained glass window in the Stadacona Chapel, at CFB Halifax possible. Rear Admiral E.W. Finch–Noyes unveiled the "Christus Window" on 16 November 1973".


To quote from this article please cite:

Hughes, Rear-Admiral Bill with John MacFarlane (2012) The Royal Canadian Navy Centennial Memorial Window 2010. Nauticapedia.ca 2012. http://nauticapedia.ca/Articles/Memorial_Window.php

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