Battle of Britain lace panel

Place Europe: United Kingdom
Accession Number RELAWM32146
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Cotton
Maker Dobsons and M Browne & Co Ltd
Place made United Kingdom: England, Nottinghamshire, Nottingham
Date made c 1945-1946
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Machine woven lace panel divided into three vertical columns and horizontal rows.

Column 1 [left side, from top to bottom]:
Harry Cross, Designer; badge of the Royal New Zealand Royal Air Force with fern leaf; tottering building in Queen Victoria Street (showing NFS firemen at work); City Temple, Holborn, in ruins; the Old Bailey; Buckingham Palace (showing damage to the gates) with the Royal Coat of Arms displayed on the portico; figure of fighter pilot standing by his aircraft; acorns, daffodil and shamrock.

Column 2 [centre, from top to bottom]:
Delbeta Dobsons and M. Browne & Co. Ltd, Nottingham. England; badge of the Royal Canadian Air Force with maple leaf; badge of the Royal Air Force with tudor rose; badge of the Royal Australian Air force with wattle; the words 'The Battle of Britain' on a background of flames; British Spitfire, Hurricane and Defiant aircraft in combat with German Messerschmitt, Stuka and Dornier aircraft; airmen 'bailing out'; a typical country cottage with oak tree adjacent and an English mansion; St Paul 's Cathedral surrounded by flames (The sculpture over the portico can be identified and the time on the cathedral clock is 19.25 hours); scroll with Winston Churchill quote, 'Never was so much owed by so many to so few'; Royal Air Force badge; thistle, tudor rose, thistle.

Column 3 [right, from top to bottom]:
W. Herod and W. J. Jackson, draughtsmen; badge of the South Africa Air Force (Lug-Mag) with protea; St Mary's church, Bow (through the window can be seen the dome and cross of St Paul 's); St Clement Danes church (showing remaining walls); walls of the Guildhall; House of Commons showing damage (figures can be seen in the damaged porch); thistle and shamrock, and anti-aircraft gun and searchlights in action; shamrock, daffodil, acorns.

The panel is edged with a repeat pattern of ripening ears of corn, representing the season in which the Battle of Britain took place, interwoven with tudor roses, thistles, shamrocks and oak leaves.

History / Summary

In the summer and autumn of 1940 the Royal Air Force fought a prolonged battle in defence of Britain against the highly trained and numerically superior German Luftwaffe. Britain won the battle at the cost of 1,495 airmen, including at least 37 Australians who were serving in RAF squadrons, and numerous civilian casualties resulting from the bombing of London and south east England.

The Battle of Britain lace panel was designed and manufactured between 1942 and 1947 by the British lace curtain firm of Dobsons and M. Browne & Co. Ltd. to commemorate the battle, and as a tribute to those who fought to save Britain. During the Second World War the firm devoted most of its output to the production of mosquito and camouflage netting. As a means of retaining the skills and standards of their highly trained designers and drafting staff who were under-employed by the wartime production requirements, the firm took up the idea of making a large commemorative lace panel.

The design for the panel, which began in 1942, took two years, and the drafting of the jacquard (pattern cards) another 15 months. Each panel measured 4.5 x 1.62 metres when completed. Thirty-eight panels are said to have been woven before the jacquards were destroyed but as it is thought that four panels were woven at a time, the total may have been thirty-six or another multiple of four.

Once the panels were completed Dobsons and Browne planned to make formal presentations to individuals, air force units, towns, and Commonwealth nations who had either contributed to, or been affected directly by the battle of Britain. These included King George VI and Sir Winston Churchill, various RAF units, Westminster Abbey, the City of Nottingham (where the panels were woven), the City of London, and some of the staff from Dobsons and Browne. As airmen from New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and Australia had been attached to various RAF units, these countries were also to receive a panel. The presentations began in 1947, but it is uncertain whether all of those originally proposed by Dobsons and Browne took place.

Thirty one panels are currently known to exist (as of 2012). Four are located in Australia. The panel held by the Australian War Memorial is not the one that was officially presented to the Commonwealth if, indeed, that presentation took place. From the late 1940s a panel toured Queensland and Tasmania. Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia were presented with panels by Dobsons and Browne in this period and it is thought that the South Australian panel was the one lent for the tours of Queensland and Tasmania. The Memorial's panel was acquired from Dobson and Browne's Sydney agent in 1963.

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