Remembering those who cannot be forgotten...
We speak a lot about The Anglo-Portuguese Alliance & The Treaty of Windsor, and at times I must admit it can roll off the tongue with little thinking about WHAT it means. What does it mean that the Portuguese have always stood side by side with the British in time of emergency and hardship just like the British did the same with Portugal? There is a Galician saying, “no hay dolor sin Gloria” which means that “there is no pain without glory” and this brings us to the participation of Portugal in The First World War, alongside Britain and its allies. This is without question one of the greatest examples of WHAT this alliance truly.
Portugal’s support during the First World War came in a number of ways and it is saddening that all are not remembered with a memorial. The Portuguese Fireplace in The New Forest National Park near Lyndhurst, remembers the Portuguese Unit that was based there to support the Canadian Timber Corps in their herculean work of providing timber to the frontline of the conflict.
Portugal’s involvement in the war escalated on 24th February 1916 when, at Britain’s request, Portugal seized 36 German and Austro-Hungarian merchant ships anchored in off Lisbon. Then just over two weeks later on the 9th March 1916 The German Ambassador, Baron Van Rosen, formally declared war on Portugal claiming Portugal was “Nothing but an English vassal” and the seizure of the ships was an intentional provocation.
Of the 56,500 Portuguese soldiers sent to the Western Front, approximately 2,100 were killed, 5,200 wounded and 7,000 taken prisoner. Throughout the whole of WW1 over 12,000 Portuguese troops died. The majority of Portugal’s war dead were buried outside Portugal and their bodies could not be brought home. However in France there is a cemetery where these Portuguese heroes are remembered, the cemetery of Richebourg l'Avoué.
In the United Kingdom, the country that specifically asked Portugal to break its neutral status there is no memorial to the servicemen who came to fight alongside us. This is a wrong that Father Ulrick Loring & Nick Reynolds of St James’ church in Twickenham have decided must be righted.
St James’ boast a rich history, and much of this is connected with the Royal Family of Portugal. Queen Amelia of Portugal, consort of King Carlos was born in Twickenham in 1865. She was a granddaughter of Louis Philippe King of the French. Her family lived at Orleans House and York House in the area. Her son, King Manuel II the last sovereign of Portugal was a parishioner from 1914 until his death in 1932. He contributed a lot to the church and to the local community. He also provided humanitarian support during the 1914-18 War. In the parish he and his wife Queen Victoria Augusta were godparents to many children at their Confirmations which are recorded in the parish Confirmation register. The King was an accomplished organist and the organ he played was donated to the church by the Queen. Though it is no longer in use the royal shield can still be seen.
In 2009 St James Church unveiled a memorial to King Manuel. At this occasion HH Dom Miguel of Braganza (brother of the head of the royal house Dom Duarte,) and the then Portuguese Ambassador, Antonio Santana Carlos laid a wreath to commemorate the Portuguese War Dead. From this grew the idea that the Portuguese War dead should be remembered in a fitting way. It was thus decided to remember those Portuguese soldiers who fought and perished along with many other British & allied soldiers with the erection of two stained glass windows. Caroline Benyon is the artist responsible for the project of designing the memorial to them. Here are some of Caroline’s marvellous pieces to you to appreciate.
The members of The Anglo-Portuguese Society have already very generously contributed a significant portion of the required funds, however more is needed. If you would like to donate you can visit The APS website and donate online, but please make sure you reference the windows appeal in your donation and also enter your gift aid declaration.
The events sub-committee are also planning a visit to The Portuguese Fireplace on Saturday the 29th July. Please mark the date in your diary and further details will be released over the next two weeks.
Andrew Harcourt and Bernardo da Mata