The David Beatty Memorial Window

The David Beatty Memorial Window


The David Beaty Memorial Window was engraved by Simon Whistler, already known for his beautiful church windows, following in the tradition of his father Sir Lawrence Whistler. David admired his work describing some of it, notably at St Nicholas Church, Moreton, in his book Light Perpetual, Airmen’s Memorial Windows. As Sir Lawrence is no longer alive it seemed appropriate to ask Simon to undertake the engraving.

Simon bravely carried on with this commission although suffering from a severe illness and has succeeded in his endeavour to express David’s life and work with perception and delicacy through the medium of glass and the elements of light and air.

In LightPerpetual, David quotes Philip Larkins’s description of what Sir Basil Spence calls ‘singing breathing windows’

……..and immediately,

Rather than words comes the thought of high windows,

The sun comprehending glass,

And beyond it, the deep blue air that shows

Nothing and is nowhere and is endless.’

This window consists of two diamond panes. In the left hand pane, the trails of three tiny aircraft make the Chi-Rho - The Christ Symbol – and in the trails are woven the opening words of the text ‘ If I take the wings of the morning’ from Psalm 139.

The theme of that window, with its simplicity and grace, is continued and expanded in the right hand pane with a further line from Psalm 139 ‘ Even here shall thy hand follow me’. Here the glass is symbolically full of cloud and shafts of sunlight, shining on an English summer landscape with woods where David loved to walk and think and conceive his books. Here two rivers, representing David’s life and Betty’s, join merge in the vaster ocean. At their confluence stand three trees, representative of their three daughters.

Above the landscape soars a symbolic bird, representing David’s questing spirit, his search for the truth and his love of flying and the air. The bird flies, as he did in life, through the storm clouds towards the light, through four tours of operations as a pilot in World War 2 in some of the hottest theatres of war, the siege of Malta, The Battle of the Atlantic, the Arctic convoys and the invasion of Europe. Through the stormy early days of civil aviation, through the writing years in which he became an international best-selling novelist, through his at first lonely but always undaunted inception of the study of human factors and his passionate pursuit of air safety: all were a journey into light.

After careful deliberation,the engraving was offered up in the window that catches so much light, so much sunshine and shadow, and above the effigy of the crusader. As a churchwarden remarked, a particularly apt choice in that David himself was a crusader